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UPTOWN CHICAGO COMMISSION

Uptown in the News  

June 13, 2003
Chicago Tribune
Agency gets grant to assist homeless
By Stan Donaldson, Tribune staff reporter


An Uptown health organization aimed at helping the homeless received a $1.8 million federal grant Thursday to provide more substance abuse and mental health programs for the group's clients.

Chicago Health Outreach, 4750 N. Sheridan Rd., will receive payments of $600,000 a year over three years and will provide counseling and education programs to 125 homeless people, said Heidi Nelson, executive director of the group.

The treatment will be provided at a new center called the HOPE (Helping Our People Engage) Center in the main building. Nelson said it will provide 100 jobs, including two state certified addiction counselors, two psychiatrists and a full-time nurse.

"Of the 15,000 people we serve a year at Chicago Health Outreach, about 1,000 are homeless people with serious mental illness, and the vast majority are living around this area," Nelson said.

Nelson said the main focus of the HOPE Center, which will open soon, is to treat mental health and substance-abuse problems at the same time.

"What we do is we work with other agencies both here and in the community, Uptown and citywide," she said.

The organization has helped such men as Adrian Johnson, 37, from a south suburb, who said he was homeless between 1992 and 1996. Because he grew tired of the adversity he faced, he went to the outreach group for help.

Johnson said he will work at the center when it is completed. He found an apartment through the help of his counselor and is still part of the program.

Homelessness in the Chicago area is hard to track, said Lisa Elkuss, communications director for the Chicago Department of Human Services.

At any given time, there are 6,100 homeless people who take advantage of public services in the city, she said.

The health outreach group was awarded its grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Charles Curie, administrator for the national department, said he agreed with the group's approach of treating both mental and substance-abuse problems. "If you are only treating one disorder and not the other, people are not going to get better," Curie said.

The Chicago Health Outreach is a partner with Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights


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