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
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.