Monday, March 4, 2013

Are we chasing people away from neighborhoods, or eliminating them?

I'm trying to figure which story I stumbled across this weekend is the most tragic.

I think it is the subject material for the Chicago Sun-Times' columnist Mark Brown, who wrote this weekend about 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman.

HE REPRESENTS THE Uptown neighborhood in the City Council, which historically had developed a reputation as a place where the down-and-out of our society wound up living because they didn't have any other options.

That image bothers Cappleman, who appararently would prefer it if his north lakefront ward had something more along the line of a youthful or hip reputation such as something like Lake View, if not quite Lincoln Park.

To that end, Cappleman has informed the Salvation Army -- which often sends outreach trucks into the neighborhood to help distribute food to the needy -- that they're no longer welcome in Uptown.

Cappleman seems to think homeless people are deliberately making a special trip to Uptown just to take advantage of the trucks; whose purpose is to let people know of the wide range of services they can find if they visit a Salvation Army facility. Although he tries to tone down his rhetoric a bit in response.

AS THE SUN-TIMES reported, Cappleman is giving the Salvation Army one month to find another location to send their trucks. He doesn't seem to care where they send them, so long as they're not within the 46th Ward.

Salvation Army officials say they will comply. They're not looking to pick a fight.

But I'm not sure what will be accomplished by this move, other than some homeless individuals getting even less than they already have. Because I don't see them leaving the area, just because Cappleman thinks they're a blemish on his home neighborhood.

If anything, Cappleman may well be giving us a perfect example of why people are suspicious of efforts to revitalize urban neighborhoods. The "dreaded" (to some people) concept of "gentrification.

ALL TOO OFTEN, it comes across as an effort to chase people out of a neighborhood so that someone else can come in and enjoy its benefits.

And Uptown does have its benefits -- most particularly that eastern boundary also known as the Lake Michigan shoreline. Get the kind of people who pay significant types of money to live in places like Lake View or Rogers Park.

As for the individuals who get chased out, there are too many political people who seem to take the attitude that it just doesn't matter. Where they wind up is somebody else's problem -- as in they will then have to figure out a way to chase those individuals away to someplace even further out-of-sight.

Which is what too many of us think of someone like William Strickland, a 72-year-old resident of the Brainerd neighborhood (that's South Side, to those of you whose knowledge of Chicago doesn't stretch south of Soldier Field) who died early Saturday.

STRICKLAND WAS A man being kept alive by kidney dialysis treatments -- which keep his blood clean of the toxins that the rest of us dispose of through our functioning kidneys.

On Saturday, he was shot to death outside his home. Police told the Chicago Tribune they suspect someone was trying to rob him.

Not only did Strickland's family hear the gunfire, so did the driver of the shuttle bus that was waiting for him to come outside so he could be taken to his dialysis treatment.

This one hits home for me because my mother was kept alive by dialysis treatments, and she used to have a similar transport pick her up early three times a week so she could live a little longer.

SHE USED TO worry about taking a slip on the ice in the early morning hours. Being shot was something that would have gone beyond her imagination.

Yet it happened, most likely because someone thought he could get a couple of bucks from an old man.

There are those of us who get all worked up over criminal acts where the body count extends into the dozens. Yet to me, it is those who single out the most vulnerable who are truly venal.

Perhaps even more so than the current activity taking place in Uptown!



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