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Uptown Chicago Commission Position Statement

Social Services' Responsibility to Community


1. Uptown has, by far, the largest number of social service organizations in the state of Illinois. They serve individuals with a variety of social and medical needs, including homelessness, HIV and AIDS, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic abuse. The over-concentration of vulnerable individuals threatens to impair the quality of life in Uptown's densely-populated urban area. The city and its neighborhoods would be better served by having such social service resources more evenly spread throughout the city to avoid the need for such individuals to travel or relocate.

2. There is a lack of standards, evaluation and accountability within some social service organizations. This has often resulted in putting individuals at risk and impairing the quality of life for the surrounding community.


Social studies research, such as the one completed by two professors of sociology at Ohio State University (Neighborhood Disadvantage, Disorder and Health, Catherine E. Ross and John Mirowsky), concludes that a concentration of poverty and social ills in one area prevents individuals from obtaining the structure and stability needed to re-build their lives.

The concentration of social service agencies in Uptown occurred over a period of many years, fostered in part by trends such as the de-institutionalization of mentally ill patients to single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels. Today, Uptown has fourteen (14) overnight, and transitional shelters, as well as six (6) facilities that provide housing for people with chronic mental illnesses. There are also numerous programs dealing with substance abuse and domestic violence, in addition to several sites that provide housing for the homeless on an informal basis.

While some of these facilities are properly managed, they do not all fit this description. Many shelter facilities do not meet Chicago's city building code, which often results in overcrowding and public safety issues. Drug rehabilitation programs have been located on purely residential blocks, which place children in close contact with drug-users. Because shelters are not licensed by the city of Chicago, it is left to shelter operators to determine staffing levels and monitoring of clients. This lack of standards and accountability, can leave the well being of residents, as well as members of the surrounding community, at risk.


The UCC believes that the over-concentration of social services is ultimately detrimental to the vulnerable population that the providers attempt to serve, and to the surrounding community. Based on this philosophy, the UCC will only support balanced and well-managed social services and believes organizations should locate new or additional facilities in areas that are not over-served. We believe these agencies should be spread throughout the city, not concentrated in a few communities.

In addition, the social service agencies that sponsor existing homeless shelters and other services to vulnerable populations must be "good neighbors" by maintaining a secure and safe environment, responding promptly to safety and security concerns of neighbors, and requiring that clients live up to the rules established by the sponsoring organization.

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