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Old County Hospital can help the homeless

Thursday, January 29, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
by Philip L. Blackwell
Letter to the Editor

When one person who is homeless freezes to death in our city, it is a tragedy. When a second freezes to death it is a sin. And when a third and fourth freeze to death it is sin compounded. It convicts us as a society that tolerates such abominations in our midst.

Last year Mayor Daley signed a plan to end homelessness in Chicago in 10 years. It is a plan that rejects building more shelters in favor of developing single-room occupancy (SRO) units as the first step toward independent living. Those who work directly with the homeless population here say we need at least 15,000 units to make the plan effective.

I have urged Mayor Daley and Cook County Board President John Stroger to work together immediately to reclaim the old Cook County Hospital as the centerpiece for this new plan. It can be adapted to include at least 1,500 SRO units, a medical center staffed by area hospital personnel, an addiction treatment facility, a job training and placement program, a dining area where meals are served seven days a week, and areas for washing clothes and for bathing. This dramatic move will demonstrate the devotion of the city and county to addressing a major need in our metropolitan area. It also will give focus to the goodwill efforts of not-for-profit organizations, business enterprises and religious congregations.

Just west of the Loop, 625,000 square feet of public space stand empty while people freeze to death under our bridges. We cannot tolerate it. Our communal soul is at stake.

Philip L. Blackwell,
senior pastor,

First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, Loop

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