Editor’s note: With the election being held earlier this week after the Gazette Chicago printing cycle of the November issue already had started, the timing of this edition did not allow publication of a local election results summary. Look for the Friday, December 4, issue of Gazette Chicago for full coverage.
Archives for November 2020
By Nathan Worcester
The Illinois General Assembly earlier this year set aside $50 million in its capital budget to construct a new high school in the Near South area to service Chinatown, Bridgeport, and South Loop.
“I was really pleased that it did make it into our capital budget,” said Representative Theresa Mah (D-2nd), who proposed the appropriation. She noted Chicago Public Schools (CPS) administration “is on board, and we will be starting the process of planning for the high school with robust community engagement. The origin of this project comes from the desire from the community to have a high school.
“There are a number of leaders in the Chinatown community—leaders and organizations—that have been involved over the years,” Mah continued, citing David Wu, Pui Tak Center executive director, and the Coalition for a Better Chinese-American Community (CBCAC) as local stakeholders who have helped realize the vision for a high school.
Mah stated she has not heard of any opposition to the high school from constituents or other stakeholders. “I would be surprised, just because there’s been years and years of activism around this,” she said, noting that, when CPS tried to convert the National Teachers Academy into a high school, “there was opposition to the conversion.” CPS abandoned the effort after a court injunction halted it.
“But I think that is a separate issue from the desire for a high school,” Mah said. “We don’t want this high school to be used as a reason to close any nearby high schools. We want to work with all the communities involved and make sure it’s a good outcome for everyone.”
“The Chinese high school is still very much a priority of CBCAC’s,” wrote Grace Chan McKibben, CBCAC executive director. “We will begin a series of conversations with parents and community members about what they would like to see in terms of academic program, co-curricular program, and student and family services soon. COVID considerations that make larger in-person meetings impossible has made community engagement challenging.”
Officials have not chosen the school’s location nor the area it will serve. “It has to be located somewhere in the vicinity of Chinatown, Bridgeport, and the South Loop in order to serve all three,” Mah explained.
“Several different ideas have been raised and we have forwarded these ideas with Alderman [Byron] Sigcho Lopez, Alderman [Patrick] Thompson, and CPS officials, and are awaiting formal feedback from CPS,” wrote Chan McKibben.
CPS did not provide information on the high school’s prospective timetable, location, or service area. In a statement, CPS said it “is committed to developing a new high school that meets the needs of the Near South community, and later this year, we will be launching a community engagement process to begin the process of considering key questions about the development of the school.”
“We know that the cost of a new high school will exceed $50 million, and we are evaluating options to ensure this project is able to move forward,” added Emily Bolton, CPS director of media communications and strategy, when asked whether CPS had committed any money in addition to the $50 million allocated by the Illinois State Legislature.
“My personal opinion is that it’s money well spent,” said James Wales, president of South Loop Neighbors, who emphasized his organization has not taken a formal position. “It would be a welcome relief for many of the parents living in the South Loop, Chinatown, and Bridgeport.
“I think it’s still relatively early,” added Wales. “I think people are waiting to see what happens here. I can’t imagine any opposition to it.”
“We have been advocating for a high school for many years,” wrote Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson, president and executive director of the Near South Planning Board. “So, we are in favor of a high school to serve our communities.
No plans to expand St. Therese
Susan Thomas, public relations and communications manager for the Archdiocese of Chicago, addressed rumors that St. Therese Chinese School intends to acquire Henry’s Sport and Marine at 3130 S. Canal St. to build a new school building.
“St. Therese Chinese Parish and St. Barbara Parish united to form St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish,” said Thomas. “Both churches remain open as active worship sites of the new parish. St. Therese Chinese School assumed responsibility for St. Barbara School, retaining campuses at both the existing St. Therese Chinese School building and the existing St. Barbara School building, under the St. Therese Chinese School leadership and name. There are no current plans to expand at either site. There is open capacity for students at the St. Barbara School campus. Parish leadership and the Archdiocese of Chicago are evaluating the best use of property on the two campuses.”
Contacted in October regarding the rumored expansion of the church and school, Thomas added, “There’s nothing definitive at this point.”
“I have not heard that St. Therese Church and School is expanding to that location,” wrote Chan McKibben. “St. Therese Chinese Catholic Church and School is a CBCAC coalition partner, and we have worked well with them on our initiatives such as Census 2020 outreach.”
For CBCAC, log on to cbcacchicago.org. For CPS, log on to www.cps.edu. For Mah’s office, call (872) 281-5775. For the Near South Planning Board, log onto thenspb.org. For South Loop Neighbors, log on to www.southloopneighbors.org.
By Claire Cowley
City officials have enacted a second launch of online submission dates for its rental assistance program, based on extreme need among vulnerable populations due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. People have until Sunday, Nov. 15, to apply.
The Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) launched the first online application for rental assistance in July. It received 1,936 submissions.
Quenjana Adams, DFSS director of public affairs, said original funding applied to the first round of applications; when the City launches the portal again, funding will go to a new group of applicants.
In the past, the City made applications available only at community services centers instead of online, Adams said.
“When the pandemic started, the Public Health department advised everyone to not have congregate gatherings, so we had to shift the availability of the rental assistance program online,” Adams said, noting the shift allowed people to access the application anywhere while the stay-at-home order was in effect.
DFSS obtains rental assistance funding from the Federal government through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“It’s a homeless prevention program,” Adams added. “The essence of it is for people who are facing eviction and facing homelessness to get this assistance and maintain staying in their home.”
Adams said that, when a person goes to the portal and fills out an assessment of his or her current situation, the algorithm will recommend various programs run by the City or State.
“That’s one of the very cool things about the portal,” Adams said. “Based on your needs, it will match you to the programs,” and, if a person cannot apply online then he or she can call one of the community services centers and ask personnel to mail an application. Phone numbers for the centers are listed on the City’s DFSS rental assistance website listed later in this article.
“If you can’t reach anyone, my first recommendation would be for you to leave a voicemail,” Adams said.
Also, a feedback form can be found at https://webapps1.chicago.gov/eforms/contactUsForm.
Adams said that, for any City resource, residents should call 311, tell the responder about the aid needed, and the responder will point the caller to the right department.
Ebony Scott, partnership director of the Family Independence Initiative (FII), said her organization has partnered with the City since 2018. When COVID-19 became a problem, FII had an opportunity to deploy the $2 million the Department of Housing had in its emergency housing program.
“When COVID hit, the City wanted a way to pivot from their normal approach,” Scott said.
Scott noted FII leaders strongly believe most of that money should go directly to families and households as opposed to funding programs and services which, she believes, families never asked for, do not necessarily align with families’ specific needs, and take choice and control away from families.
“It creates situations where you have experts insert themselves into communities and try to access and determine what that community or those individuals need rather than trusting that those families are smart, strong, capable, value driven people who can solve problems for themselves,” Scott said. She added that what these families lack is cash because of poverty and the city’s wealth gap.
“We say why not treat the root cause and provide people cash instead of funding over and over and over these programs and services that, frankly, the data shows you don’t work,” Scott added.
Chicago on cutting edge
She cited Chicago as being on the cutting edge with its rental assistance programs during COVID and before, because around the country few such programs pay the tenant directly.
“They all operate on the premise that the tenant can’t be trusted and we will only pay the bank or the landlord,” Scott said.
That’s problematic for a few reasons, she said. “No family is going to intentionally create housing instability for themselves, and we know because of our work with these families. They always take care of business and do what they need to do.”
The way they use the money might not look the way the program or case manager would want it done, however, Scott said.
“I think the City has been pleasantly innovative in their approach because trusting people is not the norm,” Scott said.
The government, non-profit, and social sectors do not trust Black and Latinx people and assume they do the wrong things, Scott added.
“I hear time and time again, if you just give people money they’ll stop working, they’ll go buy Jordans and liquor,” Scott said. “You’d be amazed how many people tell me all Black people buy gym shoes.”
Scott said that is a lie rooted in racist and classist thoughts people have about the poor.
Scott also said some landlords do not want the money from a cash investment or rental assistance program.
“It’s coming with the caveat that you can’t evict or you have to hold off on evicting,” Scott said. “They don’t want to waive their right to do that.”
Scott said some landlords have been impossible to reach and do not complete their half of the application.
“The tenant had done everything they were told to do, and now because this landlord won’t respond to an email or a phone call and fill out their half…the money is stuck in limbo,” Scott said.
Scott also said she thought what was remarkable about the City’s approach is that it is not merely a rent payment figured down to the penny.
“The reason this direct cash assistance and the rental emergency space is important is because it’s not just your rent that goes into maintaining stable housing,” Scott said. “It’s other things that come with the cost of that,” she explained, noting tenants are behind on utilities and may be borrowing money from friends and relatives to keep the lights on or make rent payments.
“By having this flexible cash it allows people to take care of their housing costs that makes sense for them according to their specific situation,” Scott added.
Kudos for City
Jawanza Brian Malone, an organizer for the Lift the Ban Coalition, said he has heard some horror stories from people who have applied for State aid, but not for the City aid. The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) runs the State rental assistance program. The coalition is working to repeal the State’s rent control ban.
“This is a huge problem,” Ma-lone said of people having trouble paying their rent. “I think everybody is underestimating exactly how catastrophic an issue this is.”
Elected officials are not doing nearly enough to address it, Malone added.
“Whatever the second rollout looks like, unless it captures the tens of thousands of more people, whoever they are who have since ran into trouble, it’s not even putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,” Malone said, noting he would like to see Governor JB Pritzker to use his emergency powers to have the State help people economically, including debt cancellation.
“That’s going to be most effective, and for us means the debt people are just incurring every single month needs to be canceled,” Malone added.
“We wouldn’t be in as bad a situation if rents were affordable in the first place.” Malone said. “If you’re paying 50% to 70% of your income on the first of every month and you got nothing to cover your other household expenses, let alone to save, it’s easy to see how we can end up in this problem.”
Allison Bethel, clinical professor of law at the University of Illinois Chicago and director of Fair Housing Legal Clinic, said renters knew under the moratorium on evictions they were not going to be evicted because the courts were not processing lawsuits in Illinois.
Bethel said her office has seen renters not paying their rent when given money.
“When they were giving it to the renters directly…I hate to say it, but they were not necessarily paying their rent.” Bethel said. “They were paying other pressing bills.”
Bethel gets why renters are doing it, but noted that is not helping the situation because the landlords need the money too.
“I get people who have bills and not enough money…I think if it was going to the landlords directly then at least we’d know that situation was being addressed,” Bethel said.
However, Bethel said she does not think the money DFSS is giving applicants is too much and renters could use more.
“I realize this is hard to do, but I think they need to find some ways that can be tailored to the person’s circumstance right,” Bethel said. “Some people may need more than three months and some people may need less.”
If renters do not have a way of going forward, “then I would rather see us use those three months to help someone else or to put renters in a position where they can be more stable,” Bethel added.
“If they’re going to get kicked out anyway…maybe there’s a better approach,” Bethel said. “Maybe that means moving to cheaper housing or alternate housing.”
Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, said the government needs to act right now because it is the government who has told businesses they must shut down.
“As a consequence, people have lost their jobs because of government mandates and that is a form of takings of property under the U.S. Constitution,” Schneider said.
Look for the new application dates and other assistance options at the City’s DFSS rental assistance website at http://Chicago.gov/fss/RAP. To reach the FII, call (773) 680-9848 or log on to www.fii.org.
For the American Conservative Union, log on to conservative.org. For Bethel, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For the IHDA rental assistance program, log on to www.ihda.org/developers/rental-assistance/. For the Lift the Ban Coalition, log on to www.ltbcoalition.org or call (312) 805-4326.
By Madeline Makoul
With a statewide moratorium barring evictions as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, landlords are bearing the burden of unpaid rents.
Under the Illinois Eviction Filing Moratorium, residents are protected from evictions, halting both filings and enforcement, according to Governor JB Pritzker’s executive order implemented to help renters whose jobs are affected by COVID-19 economics and cannot afford to pay rent.
The moratorium began in April with an initial ban of 30 days, and the State repeatedly extended it as the pandemic continues to help tenants. The latest moratorium runs through Saturday, Nov. 14.
Landlords see things differently.
Chris Pezza, who serves on the Chicago Association of Realtors board of directors, said a ban on all evictions, including those already in process before the pandemic, places a heavy financial burden on landlords that will have longterm effects.
“The feeling is that our government has basically said to our landlords ‘now you’re in the lending business, now you are giving interest free loans to your tenants with no end dates,’” Pezza said. “There’s only one person that this falls on, and it’s the landlord.”
Impact on landlords
Some landlords are noticing renters taking advantage of the State’s eviction moratorium.
Martha Padilla, a landlord with property in Woodlawn and South Shore, said about 60% of her tenants currently are not paying rent. Though the moratorium requires renters show proof of hardship, Padilla said many of her tenants have not done so, and she cannot do anything about it.
While renters are obtaining relief with the moratorium, Padilla’s responsibilities as a landlord continue, despite a massive decrease in funds available from rents.
“I have my own garbage service I have to pay, I have to pay property taxes, water bills on properties, and some of these buildings are just not generating enough money to pay the basics to keep the building running,” Padilla said. “As a landlord, it’s still required to do all that despite the fact that our hands are being tied and we can’t collect the rent we need to keep these properties moving.”
In addition, Padilla and other landlords cannot continue with the eviction process for tenants who were not paying rent before the pandemic.
To try to get some money back into the building, Padilla helped tenants apply for assistance. Through both the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, tenants could apply for emergency assistance to help pay rent—relief that can trickle down to benefit landlords as well. (See related article, page 1.)
Through this process, Padilla heard back about the City’s denial of one tenant’s request for assistance after it determined the tenant had the funds to pay rent.
“If you have proof from one of these agencies that thoroughly looked into their finances and determined they have enough to pay you rent and they aren’t, why shouldn’t a landlord be able to evict them?” Padilla said. “A landlord’s hands are tied, even when a governmental agency told you they have more than enough money to pay.”
Pezza explained how landlords with minimal numbers of properties, such as Padilla, get hit worst, which their property quickly reflects. As Padilla explained, landlords first cut costs on trash pickup, lawn care, and extermination. Next, they cut maintenance and repairs, ultimately deteriorating the housing stock over time.
“Now let’s say we already cut some of those ancillary things like extermination, and more important things like repair and maintenance, and rent still isn’t coming in,” Pezza explained. “Well, now owners can’t pay their mortgage, and once owners hit this point, banks take the buildings back and you have less housing available to the open rental market, the tax base actually shrinks because those properties are no longer income producing, and ultimately the property values decline. That’s really how a recession begins.”
This is where larger corporations come in, buying properties and increasing rents as “ma and pa” landlords disappear, Pezza explained.
Pezza and Padilla both noted the pre-COVID eviction process already took about four to six months. Once the ban lifts and a flood of cases come in, landlords could be waiting at least a year to get through the eviction process, Pezza said, noting that is one year, at least, without rent.
“Next year will be really bad for landlords, and we will see how the City and State react,” Padilla said. “Are you going to stop foreclosures? Will you stop forcing people to pay property taxes because we don’t have the money to? Somehow, I don’t think so. Because people’s attitude is, ‘you’re a property owner, you have money,’ but it’s our business at stake.”
Downside for renters
With landlords feeling pressure from missing rent while property costs continue, renters see a trickledown effect.
Pezza said decreased rent payments and continued expenses for maintenance prompt more landlords to simply sell properties.
Richie Zie, a Chicago historian, tour guide, and radio personality, experienced firsthand what happens once a landlord decides to sell. After ten years living in and managing a building in Little Italy on the Near West Side, Zie alleges the new owner gave him only five days’ notice to move out—despite the eviction ban.
“I got a call on Thursday that I have to be out on Tuesday,” Zie recounted. “I’ve known [the previous landlords] for 50 years, and I was trying to do my best to get out, but I couldn’t find a place to live and I wasn’t getting out fast enough.”
Five days later on a Tuesday in August, Zie left around 11 a.m. with some of his belongings to meet movers at a storage unit. After a long day of moving, Zie returned to his apartment around 5 p.m. to find someone had thrown out the vast majority of his remaining belongings.
Zie estimated he lost about $15,000 of his personal items, including a $2,000 tripod, hearing aids, and antique furniture.
“It was 90 degrees, I was so overwhelmed,” Zie said. “I didn’t know what to do or say. I got the last things out of there and I left.”
Zie described the next three days as the “twilight zone,” spending the first two in a motel with his cats and the third sleeping in his car. After three days, he found a place to rent.
“I couldn’t even think about what happened or why,” Zie said. “I’m doing okay now. I’m surviving.”
The previous landlord did not respond to requests for comment. The current landlord did, but refused to allow his named to be used.
He said his purchase “was always under the premise that the building would be empty from day one when the contract was signed. Because of the condition of the building, it definitely needed to be empty. It needed updates and repairs to make it livable.”
He also said closing took around 45 days, so it was not a surprise to tenants.
He said he did not know about any circumstances of the eviction and was always under the impression the building would be empty by the time it was his.
“The dastardly acts of some landlords to illegally displace tenants from their homes by continuing to serve eviction notices, changing the locks on the doors, disconnecting the utilities, and other actions that compromise the safety and security of families should be swiftly and decisively rebuked and punished,” said the Lift the Ban Coalition in a statement.
“The State Legislature has only met for four days since the onset of restrictions related to the pandemic,” the Lift the Ban statement continued. “We cannot allow the veto session to come and go without real protections being enacted for the hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans at risk of eviction.”
While stories like Zie’s multiply across the city, improper eviction is not the only way tenants will see effects of coronavirus economics.
Padilla said the eviction moratorium has led some of her tenants to use money they would have spent on rent to buy other items.
Pezza noted a big spending trend, as renters who believe they are safe from eviction start spending on other items they would not buy normally. Pezza said that eventually, when the moratorium lifts and tenants owe back rent, they will take a big hit to both their credit score and rental history.
“Really, the only benefit is the tenant gets to stay in their home a little longer,” Pezza said. “You’re really just delaying the inevitable. That really is the only positive. From the tenant’s side, it’s doing a disservice by giving a false hope that ‘I’m going to be okay, you can’t evict me.’”
The Lift the Ban Coalition is asking for more for renters. The group “appreciates the extension of the eviction moratorium,” it said in a statement. “We contend, however, the debt accumulating for renters and small landlords alike is not resolved by moratoria. We continue to call upon Governor Pritzker to: void rent payments during the ‘stay-at-home’ order and the following three months, engage State licensed mortgage holders to defer mortgage payments until the end of the loan without additional interest or penalties, extend the eviction moratorium through to the end of the economic recovery, and repeal the Rent Control Preemption Act to enable municipalities to take actions deemed appropriate to help residents find relief in the midst of this unprecedented calamity. It is only just that in the midst of multiple crises, our elected representatives act to protect those of us who are experiencing vulnerabilities in this moment.”
Looking toward the future
With no end in sight for the pandemic, landlords also hope for changes to alleviate the burden.
Pezza said the courts should hear eviction cases again, allowing judges to determine what evictions are warranted while finding solutions for those tenants more heavily affected by COVID-19.
“We have all been affected by COVID, all of our incomes and lives have been affected,” Pezza said. “It’s very easy to just say I can’t pay rent because of COVID. And with this eviction moratorium, you just can’t get in front of a judge, and that’s what really bothers me. This outright ban on evictions is basically the State saying we don’t trust our judges.”
Padilla said the year ahead looks hard for landlords like herself, even if the eviction moratorium ends. She noted even when she can pursue evictions, the process can be pricey, on top of months, if not years, of tenants missing rent payments.
“It becomes a cost issue,” she explained. “Are you willing to pay $3,000 to $4,000 to get rid of someone who in actuality is never going to pay you back rent? The frustration that my eviction attorney has stated is that, by the time this moratorium is lifted, these people will get about two years of free rent that will be extremely difficult to go back and get.”
“We want tenants and landlords alike to understand we are all affected, we have all been harmed by this,” Pezza said. “We are in this together and need solutions that work for everybody.”
For the Chicago Association of Realtors, call (312) 803-4900. To learn more about the Illinois Eviction Filing Moratorium, visit www2.illinois.gov/Pages/Executive-Orders/ExecutiveOrder2020-55.aspx. For the Lift the Ban Coalition, log on to www.ltbcoalition.org or call (312) 805-4326. For more on Richie Zie, visit richiezie.com.
By Claire Cowley
Experts have warned City leaders about alarming numbers of opioid-related deaths among African-Americans on Chicago’s South and West Sides during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Natalia Derevyanny, director of communications for the Cook County Bureau of Administration, said, “I am noticing a spotlight starting to shine on all the other challenges our communities are facing” during the pandemic, one of those being the opioid crisis.
Derevyanny said the Cook County medical examiner’s office started to notice the uptick of opioid-related overdoses right around the time they started getting COVID-19 cases.
“Both of these issues are disproportionately affecting our traditionally underserved communities, most often our African-American” communities, Derevyanny said.
“This has been a particularly difficult year for so many reasons,” she added. “We usually have 6,000 to 6,500 overdose cases a year. This year we’re already over 9,400 overdose cases.”
Derevyanny said the Black population comprises about 50% of opioid overdose cases, although Blacks make up only about 23% of the Cook County population.
“It’s double where it should be,” Derevyanny said, although the number “should be zero.”
Derevyanny said that, in an ideal world, a given health challenge would affect the population proportionately across demographics (such as race) based on the percentage each demographic represents within the total population. Yet a drastic number of African-Americans are suffering.
According to the Cook County medical examiner’s case database, statistics show a prevalence of mostly middle-aged Black males using a lethal cocktail of drugs and opioids.
The database shows most overdose victims combine cocaine and heroin with prescription drugs such as tramadol and two types of fentanyl.
Derevyanny said her administration is looking for these specific opioids, including synthetic fentanyl, so officials can alert police or public health departments.
“I think knowledge is power,” she noted. “We’re always looking for patterns, and the more eyes we have on the challenges, the more people are involved in finding solutions.”
Ngozi Ezike, MD, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that, in early 2020, Governor JB Pritzker signed the Overdose Prevention and Harm Reduction Act to establish and operate a needle and hypodermic syringe access program.
Ezike added the life-saving drug naloxone and access to medication-assisted therapy can help. “Access to safer drug use and harm reduction supplies reduces the transmission of infectious diseases and prevents overdoses,” she said.
IDPH is working with the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery and the Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances on a harm reduction and media campaign to connect individuals and their loved ones to services.
“We want them to know they are not alone,” Ezike said.
Lack of access to behavioral health services, including mental health and substance use treatment services, plays a major role in this epidemic, she explained.
Treatment harder to access
Thomas Britton, president and CEO of the Gateway Foundation, said treatment is harder to access during the pandemic, resulting in a drug use and relapse rate increase.
Also, the nature of any substance abuse disorder makes it a disease of social isolation.
“What we have seen from the stay-at-home orders is the fear of losing one’s job, economic challenges, boredom, and loneliness bringing up a lot of emotion most people typically use drugs as an antidote for,” Britton said.
The more people are by themselves and left to their own devices, the harder it is to not use drugs and stay in recovery.
“And then the compound factor is the drugs available on the streets are higher in fentanyl than normal because heroin has been harder to get,” Britton said. Put these two together, and people are taking a much more lethal drug.
Alicia McGhee, information coordinator for the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the City is increasing options available to provide telehealth services, so people can obtain drugs used to treat opioid use disorder safely.
On the state level, McGhee said the governor mandated in an executive order that all insurance companies regulated by the Illinois Department of Insurance cover the cost of telehealth services.
She added the City is working to address systemic health inequities by taking immediate steps to minimize gaps in healthcare systems and creating more equity in programs to help vulnerable populations.
“Through a partnership with West Side United, the City’s racial equity rapid response teams have been working to reach the vulnerable population most impacted by COVID-19,” McGhee said.
Guided by the data, the City has developed a hyper-focused strategy centered around deep, consistent education, outreach, and intervention, McGhee explained.
Antonio Jimenez, director of the Community Outreach Intervention Project, said people have come to them during the pandemic.
“That’s why we saw ourselves as essential to keep people alive and prevent them from overdosing,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez said the most successful program reaching people has been the project’s syringe exchange program.
This program is driven by the need for people to access injection drug-use supplies at COIP field sites where opioid users can exchange their used syringes for clean ones, Jimenez added.
“Most of the work was done at our doorways at our field stations…right in front,” Jimenez said. “We were able to maintain basic services for people who can’t come in the office unless they have a clinical or case management need.”
Jimenez said four in five communities around the city are marginalized and impacted by poverty, racism, inequality or lack of services.
“We provide a vital service…although our work focuses on substance using populations, we do get community members who aren’t substance users coming in to use or seek help,” Jimenez said.
The COIP is funded by a variety of sources such as the Illinois Department of Health, State of Illinois Substance Use Prevention and Recovery Division, and Illinois Department of Public Health, Jimenez added.
“COVID impacted us greatly…like a lot of other organizations,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez said it is hard for organizations in this new environment to work virtually or remotely because community members prefer in-person discussions to talk about issues.
“Our staff who are not technologically proficient have experienced a learning curve on how to use equipment to stay in touch with clients,” Jimenez said, adding that COIP’s goals are to reach more people and make their lives as healthy as possible.
For the Chicago Department of Public Health, call (312) 747-9191, email McGhee at email@example.com, or log on to www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/cdph.html. For the Cook County Bureau of Administration, call or email Derevyanny at (312) 603-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to www.cookcountyil.gov/agency/bureau-administration-0. For the Cook County Department of Public Health, log on to https://cookcountypublichealth.org/. For the Gateway Foundation, call (312) 316-1412 or log on to www.gatewayfoundation.org/. For the Community Outreach Intervention Project, call (312) 996-5523, email Antonio Jimenez at email@example.com, or log on to https://coip.uic.edu/. For Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, log on to https://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/202008270530, call 240-276-2130 (press 4).
By Dan Baron
Jennifer Vargas, MD, medical director at Alivio Medical Center, recalled a phone call she had with a woman at 3 a.m. one day, a patient whose boyfriend had just died from coronavirus (COVID-19).
“She was grieving by herself and wanted to share stories about her boyfriend’s life, Vargas said. “I didn’t want her to be alone.”
Vargas recalled another Alivio patient, a single mother with asthma who has three kids—all of whom got the virus and recovered. Vargas, a family physician by training, said such stories stand out among many examples reflecting how Alivio and the community it serves are facing the pandemic.
While the virus has changed everyone’s lives since March, Alivio has met the very 2020 challenge of pivoting to serve patients in new ways during COVID-19 while maintaining a close connection to its community.
“It’s important for people in the community to understand that we are here for them,” said Vargas. “What has happened during this time is that this pandemic has united us more.”
For more than three decades, Alivio Medical Center has provided health care services to underinsured and uninsured people in the community. The center also runs a clinic in Berwyn, IL. Each year, more than 22,000 people come to Alivio for services.
Alivio Medical Center opened in 1989 as a bilingual, bicultural, nonprofit community health center located in the Pilsen community. Today, Alivio operates an urgent care center and six community health centers, three of them based in schools. (Its Benito Juarez High School and Little Village Academy High School sites currently are closed because of COVID-19).
Carmen Velasquez founded Alivio and served as executive director for 25 years. Velasquez now serves on the executive board of the Healthy Illinois Campaign, a statewide effort to make quality, affordable health care accessible to all people in Illinois.
Velasquez pointed to one example among many of how Alivio is serving the community – the work of Alivio staff who are testing community residents for COVID-19. “When people talk about ‘essential workers,’ that’s one way of putting it,” she said. “But when you see these people providing this service all day, every day – you see there’s a purpose in having Alivio around.
“We must continue to provide services to immigrants, undocumented people, and others in our communities – and that’s what Alivio does,” Velasquez said. “We’re under the gun now. We need to protect ourselves and each other. That’s what this is all about.”
Alivio primarily serves Latino communities, and more than 50% of the people who come to Alivio are undocumented Latino immigrants. Many people Alivio serves not only work in the factories, restaurants, and grocery stores often linked to higher COVID-19 rates but do not have health insurance. According to the Latino Policy Forum in Chicago, the COVID-19 “Latino per-100,000 case rate exceeds that of all other racial-ethnic groups.”
In mid-March, during the virus’s early days, Alivio stopped seeing patients on site for a few months—a big change, as the center focuses on in-person preventive care. Alivio also closed its senior center, which remains closed, although it still provides outreach services to patients. In early July, Alivio started seeing patients in its clinics again.
While Alivio (a Spanish word meaning “relief”) has emphasized its connection to communities since it opened, the coronavirus led to a new challenge over how staff would come together to plan a response to an unpredictable pandemic. At first, they held Zoom “huddles” twice daily, before and after clinic hours. The huddles allowed Vargas to update staff about guidelines and help ensure their safety as the team mapped strategies during a time of change.
“We want people to know that our services have resumed and they can come in for doctor’s appointments, medical needs, and preventive services,” said Vargas. “We have a safe environment that they can trust, and we are making sure that the risk of exposure in our clinics is minimal.”
Alivio also has worked with patients’ transition to telehealth. For elderly patients, that can mean helping them learn how to take a selfie. In addition, while the center’s health promoters, who go out into the community, have not made many home visits since March, they do call high-risk patients. Health promoters also connect patients to counseling through clinical psychologists or social workers—an increasingly critical service during the pandemic.
“I really have to credit the community health workers,” said Esther Corpuz, Alivio’s CEO, who link with the community in part through social media. “It’s not only an outlet for them to stay connected to the community; it’s a way to offer activities like Zumba classes or to share information about resources for food, counseling, and other needs,” Corpuz added.
Alivio also has launched drive-through and walk-up testing for the virus (testing occurs done outside) and has increased testing capacity. Social distancing means less crowding in waiting rooms, and while the numbers vary, often fewer than five people occupy Alivio waiting rooms these days.
Over the years, Alivio has partnered with other community organizations while advocating to improve policies on issues including immigration and mental health. That work will continue, even as Alivio remains dedicated to its main mission: a close connection to community residents.
“We have to keep reinforcing messages about COVID through social media, phone contact, and telehealth now, and as we head into winter,” said Corpuz. “At the same time, we will share the message to people that we will be there for them. They are not alone.”
Alivio’s medical centers are at 966 W. 21st St. and 2355 S. Western Ave. in Chicago and at 6447 W. Cermak Rd. in Berwyn, IL. Call (773) 254-1400 or log on to aliviomedicalcenter.org.
By Nathan Worcester
Italian Americans held a rally at the former site of the Christopher Columbus statue in Arrigo Park on the morning of Oct. 12 to celebrate after coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions shut down the Columbus Day parade that traditionally occurs on that date, the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.
The chain link fence around the removed statue’s base sported images of famous Italian-Americans including physicist Enrico Fermi, musician Frank Zappa, and director Martin Scorsese. Nearby, a mannequin dressed as Christopher Columbus held American and Italian flags. On the other side of Loomis Street, a semi-trailer truck advertised its Teamster affiliation and bore the slogan, “Union Labor Built this Country.”
Speakers celebrate Italian heritage
The program began with music from Tony Ocean, Joe Martino, and other entertainers before moving on to remarks from emcee Ron Onesti, a vice president with the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA), and other leaders among Chicago’s Italian Americans and the wider Chicago community.
“I was a Columbus Day queen escort back in the day,” Onesti explained in his remarks to the crowd. “My wife to be was a Columbus Day queen contestant. We met at the contest. Our first date was the parade. We got married on Columbus Day…after the ceremony in church, we hopped on a trolley and got to the parade just in time to board a float specially made to resemble a wedding cake.
“Recently, history has been challenged—our history has been challenged,” Onesti continued. “We welcome the opportunity to discuss actions that have happened 500 years ago through today. But what we cannot accept is disrespect to our community. To be dictated to on who or what should be our icons is unacceptable, as it would be to any other ethnic group.”
“I thank the men and women of the Chicago Police Department who stood and fought to protect our statue,” said Sergio Giangrande, a JCCIA representative.
“Some of those officers were hurt during that attack,” said Giangrande concerning protests at the Columbus statue in Grant Park. Protests at Arrigo Park were peaceful.
“We want you to know that our prayers were always with you. The Italian community appreciates and honors what you do for us,” Giangrande added, garnering applause.
“I celebrate the diversity of this great ward that we have on the West Side of Chicago, and one of the focal points that I look forward to that I missed this year was the Taylor Street Festival,” said 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin. “As you all can see, I like to do some good eating here.
“While people may have different opinions, the way that it was done was not proper in my opinion,” added Ervin, referring to the City’s removing the Columbus statue. “We’re going to continue to work to find an equitable solution for all of us that we all can live with and celebrate the heritage, not just of the Italian culture, but of all the cultures that make this ward the great place that it is.”
“We are under attack, people, okay?” said 38th Ward Alderman Nicholas Sposato. “The lefty loons are coming after everything we stand for.”
“Buongiorno! Come stai?” began 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, greeting the rally in Italian for “Good morning. How are you?” “I grew up around Italians. My father was a truck driver for the City for many years, and he hung around a lot of Italian guys—you know, Nick LoCoco, and he hung around the Carusos, all these people, and he would bring these nice cookies home every Christmas. And I always wondered why we were so cool. And then, you know, I grow up, and I get cool with Italians. And working in George Dunne’s organization, I hung around Frank Bruno and Ned Benigno.
“Like my mentor and good friend Jesse Bianco—Jesse White, that is—would always say, ‘The Italians would always give us love, and we give it back,’” Burnett concluded.
“Many people think I’m all Irish,” said 11th Ward Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson. “I am a quarter Italian.
“Columbus was a dreamer, a man of vision and courage, a man filled with a hope for a future and a mission to spread Christianity,” added Thompson. “We as Italians need to spread that meaning on this day, Columbus Day, and remember that.”
“I’m sure that the statues will be back. I’m sure the parade will be back next year and we’ll continue on as great proud Americans of Italian descent,” Thompson added.
“I’m not here to defend Columbus, you don’t need me to do that,” said Perri Irmer, president and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African American History. Irmer stressed that both African American and Italian history had “often been distorted.”
Onlookers and a protestor respond
“I think the statue has a really good history,” said Chris Wensley, a passerby on Loomis. Wensley explained the statue originally had been commissioned for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. “It would be nice if we could find a compromise—maybe have a placard that would represent the pros of what Columbus did and also the cons.”
“I was born and raised in this neighborhood, right down the street here on Loomis, and I’m proud to see all these people out here to celebrate Columbus Day,” said Vito Pesoli, a retired employee of the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.
“People forget the reason why they gave us Columbus Day as a holiday—the world’s largest lynching happened in New Orleans, where they hung 11 Italians for no reason at all,” continued Pesoli, alluding to the March 14, 1891, mob killing of 11 Italian Americans allegedly involved in the assassination of New Orleans’s police chief, David Hennessy. “The president at that time [Benjamin Harrison], out of respect for the Italian people for wrongfully killing these people, gave us a day of holiday. And they gave us Columbus Day as our holiday.
“Columbus is our guy—that’s who we look up to,” Pesoli added.
Joe Dostal was carrying a Betsy Ross flag as he stood on Loomis a few dozen feet north of the rally and said, “It’s the nicest flag that I have.”
“I support patriotism,” Dostal said, noting that he personally comes from Irish and Venezuelan descent. “I think they need to free Columbus and put him back where he belongs in this park.”
As Dostal spoke, a lone protestor, Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef of the Tikkun Chai Inter-National in South Shore, was speaking with a group of Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers. A brief verbal altercation between Ben Yosef and an unidentified man on the other side of the street ended with a woman warning the unidentified man, “Come on, that’s what they want.”
“It’s not room for compromise on a murderer,” said Ben Yosef. “My job is to ensure the justice of those who’ve been suffered and murdered get the justice they deserve—whether they like it or not.
“Have you heard me on my bullhorn? No. Am I very peaceful right now?” Ben Yosef continued. “This is really the reason why I’m here, to make a statement. The statement is to say that we cannot condone a statue that symbolizes murder in our community.”
Closer to the stage, Rossana Macejak offered a more positive impression, saying, “I thought this was really nice.”
“Everyone’s done good, everyone should be honored,” said Macejak. “I hate that everyone’s hating everybody.”
“What happened six months ago?” asked Vito DiPiazza. “Did someone turn on a switch and we hate Christopher Columbus? Who’s next?”
“My dad’s from Taylor and Halsted, and my ma’s from Taylor and Miller,” said Mike Sisto, who was walking around the base of the statue with a close friend, his two sons, and his nephew identifying the Italian and Italian-American celebrities. “I’ve been in this park since I was a little kid, my whole life.”
Sisto explained that he and his family no longer live in the neighborhood because, “as the Italian Americans became successful, they wanted a better life for their families, so they unfortunately moved out to the suburbs to get their own home, their own piece of land, and grow their gardens and stuff. Here it’s a little hard because the buildings are close and tight.”
The protestors “are childish, and they’re not even worth dealing with,” said Sisto.
After the rally came a procession through the neighborhood. On the east side of Loomis, supporters waved Italian flags at the passing luxury SUVs, Italian sports cars, and City emergency vehicles. On the west side of Loomis, Rabbi Ben Yosef, still flanked by CPD officers, stepped forward into traffic and back into the bike lane while waving the Pan-African flag.
Thanksgiving 2020 will be a holiday in America like no other. Our lives have changed dramatically since March, when it became apparent that the coronavirus (COVID-19) strain circulating around the globe was going to be something of great concern. Within weeks, it exploded into a world-wide pandemic and shook us to the core like nothing this country has seen in 100 years.
The word “coronavirus” has become a part of our daily nomenclature. The early images were of the “red crown spike” created by a graduate of the University of Illinois Chicago. Nowadays, it’s the charts on our evening newscasts that track the cases and deaths. Here in the United States, we see cases exploding in many regions of the country and more of our fellow Americans perishing. The strain on our front-line medical personnel, first responders, essential workers, and businesses small and large is growing exponentially. Startingly, many don’t even believe the virus exists or view that it is politically hyped. As sad as it is, this pandemic has divided us more than it has brought us together.
So, what is there to be grateful for this Thanksgiving? Can we even get the words “Happy Thanksgiving” out of our mouths? We at Gazette Chicago say “yes,” that we need to push forward and reflect on the good things that we have in our lives. If nothing less, perhaps doing so will help us retain our sanity.
As we write this, please note that the November 3 national and state elections have yet to occur—this is just the publishing schedule we keep bringing you the news each month. So, we put an “asterisk” on this Thanksgiving message. Anyone familiar with this publication knows our political positions. Maybe if we “freeze frame” our lives and leap past November 3 to just focus on Thanksgiving for a moment—maybe that isn’t a bad way to reflect on some of the good around us. So, stay with us, and let’s see where we wind up.
We are thankful for our front-line healthcare teams. We say “Happy Thanksgiving” and “thank you!” to the doctors, nurses, respiratory care and physical therapists, the admitting clerks, the ER teams, the orderlies, the security staff, the administrators, custodians, social workers and mental health therapists, and everyone else at our area hospitals, medical centers, and clinics who continue to come to work each day, risking their lives in this pandemic to care for us, keep us healthy, and try to save the lives of the most vulnerable from the coronavirus. Thank you too, to our dentists, pharmacists, and their teams and to those who provide us the COVID-19 tests (see pages 4 and 5) to help us understand our personal health situations. Where would we be without these heroes?
We are thankful for our first responders. “Happy Thanksgiving” and “thank you!” to our police, fire, ambulance staff, and 911 workers who day after day are on our city streets doing their best to keep us safe and rush us to the hospital when we need immediate care or to be rescued from danger. On top of the worst pandemic to hit this country since 1918, we have had a summer of discontent like no other since 1968. The civil unrest has taken its toll on us as well as we have reeled from violence in our streets and damage to so many businesses. There is much discourse needed, necessary discourse, on police and community relations and police reform. Let’s set that conversation aside for just a moment and extend gratitude to those first responders who leave their homes every day and risk their lives for the rest of us.
We are thankful for our essential workers. “Happy Thanksgiving” and “thank you!” to our neighbors who show up every day in our stores, warehouses, factories, and offices and bring us the goods we need to get by each day. To the grocery store cashiers, stock people, butchers, and others who allow us to “mask up” and do our grocery shopping. To our small business and restaurant owners, to the chefs, waitresses and bartenders, florists, dry cleaners, and everyone else who hangs a shingle out every day and says “we are open.” To the truck drivers who deliver what we need to the grocery and retail stores. To the City of Chicago workers who fix our broken water pipes and keep our water supply safe, trim our trees, collect our refuse and recycling, and relace the lightbulbs in our streetlights. To our friends at the United States Postal Service, who too are under extreme duress from both the virus and a corrupt Federal administration. They are out there every day still moving millions of pieces of mail and the very ballots that are the backbone of our democracy. To our friends at Peoples Gas and ComEd who help keep us warm and provide the energy to run our homes, hospitals, and businesses. To the construction workers erecting our buildings and creating projects such as the Byrne Interchange so we can move more efficiently and safely. Where would we be without these friends and neighbors?
We are thankful for all who are doing their best to keep our educational system going in this pandemic. Like every other aspect of our lives, there is much debate over whether our schools should be open and what education should look like from preschool to high school and in higher education and within the health sciences. Let’s set those debates aside for a moment and say, “Happy Thanksgiving” and “thank you!” to our teachers, professors, administrators, IT staff, custodians, security teams, and so many others doing their best to help our children and young adults. Let’s remain patient until our educational systems can reopen fully and safely and be grateful for all those who still have a passion to help educate and challenge others to grow and learn.
We are thankful for our ministers, priests, religious (nuns and deacons), rabbis, and all those who bring us closer to our God and one another. Where would we be without our faith? Without the opportunity to worship either safely practicing social distancing or joining remotely through live feeds? We say, “Happy Thanksgiving” and “thank you!” to our religious leaders who have been a voice of reason during this pandemic and to the many volunteers who keep our worship sites open and safe. To our neighbors at the many religious, private, and civic organizations who provide the warm meals, shelter, and someone to talk to in these dark days. To those who go out daily and tend to the broken who are homeless and addicted (see our story on page 8 on the growing opioid crisis in Chicago). In times like these, we need God and each other more than ever.
We at Gazette Chicago are grateful to so many. We say, “Happy Thanksgiving” and ”thank you!” to our advertisers who, despite the many challenges they face, continue to support us so that we can support you. Community journalism has always been, and always will be, a partnership between publications, businesses, organizations, and the community. We are grateful to our news staff who work so hard to bring you the stories each month that make a difference in your lives, our advertising manager and graphic designers, photographers, and circulation helpers. We are grateful to you, our readers, who continue to find value in the relationship you have with us.
We also want to take a moment to say a special thank you and extend warm wishes to the staff at the Bridgeport News. Sadly, after an incredible 80-year run, this mainstay published its last issue on October 28. The publication will sorely be missed in our community. We wish the Feldman and Ryan families and editor Janice Racinowski all the best. Jan served as editor for an amazing 47 years. When Gazette Chicago expanded into the Bridgeport/Armour Square and Chinatown communities some 20 years ago, we never looked at the Bridgeport News as our competitor. The publication has had a very distinct niche in the community and we always valued its role. Every time a community newspaper shutters its doors, it is a great loss. This is so true at this time as we say good-bye to the Bridgeport News.
We know that the list above isn’t complete and we apologize to any person or group we might have missed. The message here is simple: in spite of the incredible pain, trauma, loss, and challenges that the coronavirus has caused us, we have to remember we have each other. We have our families and friends. We have neighbors who care for and look out for one another. We have people serving others in all walks of life to preserve life, to nurture life, to enrich lives.
So, Happy Thanksgiving. We wish you and those dear to you the very best in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Be grateful and reach out to someone who touches your lives and simply say, “thank you.”
By William S. Bike
Editor’s note: At press time, future events listed in Around the Neighborhood still were scheduled, but changes are happening on a daily basis due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Check websites or call before going out in case organizers have postponed or canceled events.
BENTON HOUSE INFO
At Benton House,3052 S. Gratten Ave., find out about public benefits such as supplemental nutrition assistance and citizenship application help. Call (773) 927-6420 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NURSE CONSORTIUM NEWS
The Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium helps foreign-educated nurses attain licensure in Illinois.
National Council Licensure Examination predictor tests are available to demonstrate probability of passing the nursing exam.
The organization’s website at www.chicagobilingualnurse.org also lists jobs available for nurses. For more information, call (773) 838-1870.
The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services reports that Community Services Block Grant Scholarships are available for those enrolled or planning to enroll in college or vocational training. Contact Jenny Schuler at email@example.com or (312) 746-7291.
The Catholic Charities call center helps callers with a variety of needs and connects them toprograms within Catholic Charities or other agencies.
The organization offers meals to go at St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St., Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. No pre-registration required.
Catholic Charities operates several food pantries.
A counseling/support hotline is available at (312) 948-6951. Catholic Charities also offers professional counseling at (312) 644-7725.
Log on to cahtoliccharties.net, call (312) 655-7700, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
City of Chicago emergency rental assistance is available for people suffering financial hardship. Call 311 or use a search engine to find City of Chicago Family & Support Services online.
Community Organizing and Family Issues,2245 S. Michigan Ave., (312) 226-5141, organizes and trains parents to win improvements in schools and communities and in how to create organizations and programs. See cofionline.org.
The Crisis Management Institute (CMI) works with schools and parents after a tragedy, such as a shooting or national event like the Sept. 11, 2001. To deal with issues related to coronavirus, the CMI launched several websites. One has resources for school counselors, counselors.cmionline.com; a second is for parents, parents.cmionline.com; and a third serves children and their parents, resources-for-kids-during-covid19. Parents can access several children’s books by Marla Koch to help children deal with quarantine by using the resources tab of the parents’ website. For more information, log on to www.cmionline.org or call (503) 585-3484.
DE LA SALLE ROUNDUP
De La Salle Institute chose senior Alexa Acevedo as Meteor of the Month.
Acevedo is enrolled in the Honors Program and ranks in the top 17% academically in the Class of 2021.
De La Salle will host personal open house tours on the Saturdays of Nov. 7 and 21. Call (312) 842-7355.
Women’s basketball player T.K. (Takiya) Howard will attend Murray State University in Murray, KY, while women’s volleyball player Franki (Francesca) Bertucci has chosen Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.
De La Salle is at 3434 S. Michigan Ave. Call (312) 842-7355 or log on to www.dls.org.
First Defense Legal Aid, located at 5100 W. Harrison St., provides representation to people in custody, informs people of their rights, and organizes volunteers to help.
For more information, call (800) 529-7374.
The following food pantries provide groceries and meals to those who need them.
Chosen Tabernacle Full Gospel, 4310 S. Champlain Ave., Thursday, 1 to 3 p.m., (888) 834-9414.
Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave., Wednesday, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., (773) 624-3185.
Hyde Park SDA Soup Kitchen, 4608 S. Drexel Blvd., Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., (773) 373-2909.
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, 4242 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., (773) 548-7500.
Kenwood UCC Soup Kitchen, 4608 S. Greenwood Ave., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9:30 to 10 a.m. and noon to 1 p.m., (773) 373-2861.
Operation Pull Grant Memorial, 4017 S. Drexel Blvd., Tuesday, 1 to 3 p.m., (773) 285-5819.
Greater Bridgeport Mutual Aid, a network of more than 150 volunteers, has organized to provide free grocery delivery, direct people to resources and information through a telephone hotline, provide digital enrichment for students during remote learning, and do neighbor support check-ins. The network serves the Bridgeport, Chinatown, Armour Square, and Canaryville neighborhoods. Services are available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Request services on the group’s website at www.gbmachicago.org or by calling or texting the group’s hotline at (312) 818-1393. Donations are welcome by emailing GBMA through the organization’s website.
GWTP JOB TRAINING
Greater West Town Partnership, 500 N. Sacramento Blvd.,offers job placement and training programs in wood products manufacturing and shipping and receiving. Call (312) 563-9570.
HRHotSeat Chicagois a free monthly online meetup of more than 1,600 human resources practitioners, service providers, students, and Chicago-area profes-sionals in job transition who come together to expand networks and solve problems. Visit www.HRHotSeat.com or email email@example.com for a calendar of upcoming events.
Congratulations to Gazette Chicago circulation staff member Jacob “Jake” Urbanowski and his wife, Karley, on the birth of their daughter, Charlette Rose, on Sep 30.
CUTS AND BEATS
Hyde Park Art Center will host a solo exhibition, Cuts and Beats, by Chicago artist and educator Cecil McDonald Jr. from Sunday, Nov. 15, through Sunday, March 7, 2021. The exhibition of photomontages, which includes superimposing modern photos over century-old sheet music, is designed to make viewers consider the complicated histories between America and African Americans and subvert racist representation of Black artists from history. The center is at 5050 S. Cornell Ave. Call (773) 324-5520 or log on to www.hydeparkart.org.
Instituto Cervantes is offering online Spanish courses. Also, the organization is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to Chicago.cervantes.es.
The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization will hold its Bronze Affair virtual fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets by searching “bronze affair” at www.eventbrite.com.
The Travis Manion Foundation food distribution is moving to the fourth Saturday of the month. However, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, it will be held on the third Saturday in November, which is Nov. 21. The location will continue to be the First Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1124 S. Ashland Ave. Food will be distributed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on a first-come-first-serve basis, while supplies last, in both drive-through and walk-up settings, while maintaining CDC guidelines on social distancing.
Mujeres Latinas en Accion empowers Latinas through service and advocacy. Their domestic violence crisis hotline is (312) 738-5358 and their rape crisis hotline is (888) 293-2080. Mujeres is located at 2124 W. 21st Pl. Call (773) 890-7676.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago offers support groups and other resources for individuals who may need help. Call (833) 626-4244 or visit www.namichicago.org.
NMMA RECEIVES GRANT
The National Museum of Mexican Art received a $3.5 million Ford Foundation grant as part of an effort to help culturally diverse institutions survive coronavirus. The museum currently is closed because of the virus but is showing exhibitions online. It is located at 1852 W. 19th St. Log on to nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org or call (312) 738-1503.
PARK OFFICIAL CHAIRS NRPA
The National Recreation and Park Association, a parks and recreation advocate organization, recently announced its 2020-2021 board of directors. Longtime board member Michael P. Kelly, who serves as Chicago Park District general superintendent and CEO, now chairs the organization. Kelly is a graduate of DePaul College of Law in the South Loop. To learn more, visit www.nrpa.org.
OUR LADY OF THE HOLY FAMILY NEWS
Our Lady of the Holy Family,1334 W. Flournoy St., holds Sunday Masses at 9 a.m. in English and 11 a.m. in Spanish. Saturday evening Mass is at 5 p.m.; Mondays, Mass is at 6 p.m., followed by the Rosary; Tuesday through Thursday Masses are at 8 a.m. in the chapel at 1335 W. Harrison St.; and Friday mass is at 6 p.m. followed by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and reconciliation service. Reservations required for weekend services.
The church has created a new parish pastoral council.
Call (312) 243-7400, email email@example.com or log on to www.olhfchi.org.
The Boulevard of Chicago at 3456 W. Franklin Blvd. provides medical respite care and housing services for homeless adults discharged from area hospitals. Call (773) 533-6013 or log on to www.blvd.org.
Residents who want to share their thoughts or require assistance on coronavirus or any issue in the community can reach the office of State Rep Kam Buckner (D-26th) at (773) 924-1755 or by email at Buckner@Illinois26.com.
State Attorney General Kwame Raoul is leading a coalition of 18 state attorneys general in opposing a proposed Federal Small Business Administration (SBA) rule governing the appeals process for Paycheck Protection Program loans. The rule is confusing for small businesses and puts borrowers at a disadvantage as they try to navigate appealing adverse SBA loan decisions, Raoul said. See www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.
Raoul and other state attorneys general announced a settlement with health insurance company Anthem Inc. stemming from a massive 2014 data breach that involved more than 78 million Americans’ personal information. Raoul’s office formed part of the executive committee negotiating the settlement, and Illinois will receive more than $1.7 million.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii will host its Veterans’ Day Mass, Saturday, Nov. 7, at 11 a.m.
The shrinewill host its fall spirituality seriesvia Zoom, led by the Rev. Richard N. Fragomeni, rector. EntitledFrom All Saints to Fourteen Holy Helpers, it will cover protectors from the past and intercessors for today on the Thursdays of Nov. 12 and 19, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
The shrine’s annual Mass of remembrance will be Sunday, Nov. 15.
Scripture scholar Dianne Bergant will speak on Pope Francis’s encyclical Fratelli Tutti on Zoom on Saturday, Nov. 21, from 10 a.m. to noon. In the encyclical, the Pope addresses the world’s failure to work together during the coronavirus crisis and calls for more human fraternity and solidarity and rejection of war.
Rosa Mystica is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 6:30 p.m. Call (312) 534-5351 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attend an Advent day of reflection virtual retreat on Saturday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m. to noon, led by Terry Nelson-Johnson.
To register, contact Cathy Lentz at email@example.com or call (312) 421-3757. Freewill donations accepted.
The shrine is once again accepting candle intentions. See https://www.givecentral.org/location/78/event/26977. The shrine is at 1224 W. Lexington St. Call (312) 421-3757.
SAINT IGNATIUS NEWS
The Saint Ignatius College Prep Women’s Society will host an in-person holiday shopping event Saturday, Nov. 7, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the school. Masks and social distancing required, and advanced registration required to obtain a shopping time slot. Log on to the school’s website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The school is located at 1076 W. Roosevelt Rd. Log on to www.ignatius.org or call (312) 421-5900.
The toll-free TURN Trauma Counseling Helpline,(833) TURN123, operates from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. TURN stands for The Urban Resilience Network, and the helpline assists those experiencing trauma caused by exposure to violence. The organization also provides trained ambassadors to visit community events and schools to educate about trauma.
The University of Illinois Chicago has received the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine. UIC is one of 92 recipients. This is the fifth HEED award win for UIC, this time because of its continued dedication and leadership in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and in the classroom, said Amalia Pallares, UIC’s associate chancellor and vice provost for diversity.
The university received an $8 million award from the Army Research Laboratory to support developing specialized sensors enabling drones to use different types of fuel. Researchers from the College of Engineering also will seek to advance hybrid-electric optimization, which has applications for commercial drones and other vehicle types.
UI Health surgeons performed the world’s first robotic-assisted double kidney removal, followed immediately by a living donor kidney transplant in a patient, Christopher Adamsick, 50, who needed treatment for severe polycystic kidney disease.
Instructor Chad Koch of All in Motion offers tai chi every Sunday at 9 a.m. in Mary Bartelme Park, 115 S. Sangamon St. All in Motion is located at 112 S. Sangamon St. Log on to www.aimgymchicago.com.
The Chicago Department of Transportation will continue resurfacing Halsted Street from Archer Avenue to 16th Street through Monday, Nov. 30.
The Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers encourages people to give blood. Contact Vitalant at www.vitalant.org or (877) 258-4835 to schedule a donation time. For more information, log on to www.illlinoisbloodcenters.com.
Internet Essentials makes it possible for people receiving public assistance to qualify for low-cost internet service. Log on to internetessentials.com.
LADIES OF VIRTUE
Ladies of Virtue,1245 S. Michigan Ave., (877) 565-7121, provides mentoring and leadership and empowering experiences, including help with school applications, for girls ages nine through 18 from underserved communities. Log on to lovchicago.org.
Latino Union of Chicago collaborates with low-income workers to improve their social and economic conditions through employment opportunities. Log on to latinounion.org or call (312) 491-9044. For those looking to hire workers, call (773) 588-2641.
The Lawyers Committee for Better Housing provides eligible renters with supportive services and free legal aid. The LCBH also offers Rennie the Chatbot at rentervention.com to help with people’s housing problems. The LCBH is located at 33 N. LaSalle St. Call (312) 347-7600 or log on to www.lcbh.org.
The National Immigrant Justice Center, 224 S. Michigan Ave., provides comprehensive legal services to low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. It will continue to do intakes over the phone during the coronavirus crisis. Call (312) 660-1370 or log on to www.immigrantjustice.org.
State Representative Lamont J. Robinson (D-5th) wants to hear what residents think are the most important issues in the community. Contact him at (773) 924-4614 or at his office at 5048 S. Indiana Ave.
SOCIAL HEALTH INITIATIVE
The Pilsen Social Health Initiative at 1850 S. Throop St. offers a food pantry, thrift store, and onsite social worker. See www.pilsensocialhealthinitiative.com/. Call (773) 812-3150.
If your business has experienced substantial economic injury due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Small Business Association is authorized to issue assistance through a small business economic injury disaster loan program. This program can provide low interest loans of up to $2 million to businesses and private non-profits. See https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.
The Women’s Treatment Center offers free assistance with online applications for enrollment into the Illinois Ryan White Part B Program for HIV+ women. Call (312) 850-0050, ext. 4994. The center is at 140 N. Ashland Ave. Log on to www.womenstreatmentcenter.org.
Send news of events held “around the neighborhood” by the 15th of the month before the month they are to occur to William S. Bike, Around the Neighborhood, Gazette Chicago, 1335 W. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60607-3318, fax (312) 243-4270, or email email@example.com.
By Mallory Cheng
Local independent entertainment venues are looking for a lifeline. When Governor JB Pritzker issued Illinois’s shelter-in-place order due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic earlier this year, their doors closed first, but will be the last to re-open.
“This has had a drastic impact,” said Bobby Ramirez, director of music operations at Thalia Hall at 1807 S. Allport St. in Pilsen. “We haven’t had a show since March 12. We usually have shows every single night.”
The Athenaeum Theater on the North Side is operating at five percent capacity. At full capacity, its four stage venues seat 985 people. Under the Phase 4 reopening guidelines, however, management can allow only 50 people at a time inside the building. Allen Chambers, general manager of Athenaeum, said, “Not a whole lot of artists want to perform for a 50-seat theater.”
While Thalia Hall remains closed, its adjacent restaurant, Dusek’s Board and Beer, is open for carryout. The hall also has collaborated with its neighbors, 606 Records and S.K.Y. restaurant, to bring outdoor live entertainment to the community and is running fundraisers to support Thalia Hall staff.
These meager remedies cannot address the larger financial challenge. Operating costs are fixed costs, not a sliding scale of expenses, Chambers emphasized, saying, “Opening at partial capacity is a losing proposition.” With canceled shows, partial re-opening, and zero revenue, overhead costs such as existing loans and mortgage payments as well as rent and utilities continue to pile up.
‘It’s been devastating’
“It’s been devastating,” Chambers added. “Every venue in the City of Chicago is trying to stay alive. The revenue streams have dried up. Some are predicting it won’t be until 2021 or even 2022 before we can get to full capacity again.”
Athenaeum, Thalia Hall, and many other independent Chicago venues belong to the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), whose members comprise more than 2,400 independent live entertainment venues and promoters from all 50 states and Washington, DC.
The association formed in April 2020 in response to the cry for help from local venues. NIVA members knew that, with no additional governmental support, businesses would close permanently. In a recent survey of NIVA members, 90% of independent venues reported they will close permanently in a few months without Federal funding.
“We will lose almost every single independent venue and promoter in the country,” NIVA’s executive director, known as Rev. Moose, said. “More venues are closing and not coming back. Every single day I’m getting another message from venues saying, ‘This is as a far as we can go.’ We’re already seeing [permanent closures] happen.”
Many independent venues did not receive funding from the Small Business Administration’s Payment Protection Program, commonly known as PPP, because of its payroll guidelines. Each PPP recipient receives a lump sum and must spend at least 60% of the money on payroll within two months. If that guideline is not followed, the PPP grant becomes a loan with one percent interest.
Many venues could not find a way for the program to benefit them, said Shane Merrill, talent buyer and production manager at Reggie’s, 2105 S. State St. in the South Loop. “Most places don’t have payroll to begin with; the payroll they have is reliant on shows, but there aren’t any shows happening now,” Merrill said.
$9 billion loss
A Pollstar study estimated a $9 billion loss in national ticket sales alone if venues remain closed through 2020. That financial hurt extends to each venue’s neighbors, as independent venues help bring in revenue for all nearby businesses. According to estimates from the Chicago Loop Alliance, every $1 spent at a venue generates $12 of economic activity into the community “in the form of hotels, parking garages, restaurants, even parking tickets, and so on,” said Rev. Moose. “It’s every single place you can think of that you would go to before or after a show.”
Over the last few months, NIVA members rallied together, pushing Congressional representatives to support financially struggling independent venues. Merrill stated, “We’ve lobbied Congress that we had more specific needs, and we needed some situations that were more tailored to the live music industry.”
NIVA’s work pushed Congress to build legislation to fit independent venues’ longterm needs. The bipartisan effort resulted in two pieces of legislation: the Save Our Stages Act and The RESTART Act.
Spearheaded by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), The Save Our Stages Act provides a lifeline for independent venues. This grant-based opportunity for funding may be used for payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, mortgage and other interest payments, insurance, PPE, existing loans, payments for 1099 employees, and other necessary operating expenses.
The RESTART Act, led by Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), tailored the PPP program to work for closed businesses that have zero revenue, high overhead, and no clear timeline for re-opening. As a loan-based assistance plan, it expands eligibility for businesses with part-time employees, offers flexible use of loan proceeds, and allows for loan forgiveness.
Illinois congressional representatives have supported the acts. Congressman Danny Davis (D-7th) said, “I support the Save Our Stages Act and RESTART Act. I support cultural development, especially the endowment for arts and humanity.”
Senator Tammy Duckworth publicly supported the Save Our Stages Act and the RESTART Act, noting that live event venues are “the backbone of the rich arts scene in Illinois and across the U.S.”
A spokesperson for Senator Richard Durbin noted that he “is a co-sponsor of both the RESTART Act and the Save Our Stages Act. Congress has an obligation to those who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and should help unemployed workers keep their families together and meet their basic needs. We also have to help our small businesses survive so that they can re-open their doors when it is safe to do so.”
The RESTART Act was introduced to the House in early July and the Save Our Stages Act was introduced to the Senate in late July. There have been no legislative updates at this time.
From Oct. 16 to 18, NIVA partnered with YouTube for a three day virtual music festival to generate awareness, advocacy, and donations for the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund for the most vulnerable venues.
NIVA members recommend going to saveourstages.com to sign the petition to support the Save our Stages Act. The webpage includes a filled-out email template, so all an online visitor needs to do is provide contact information.
NIVA also recommends supporters call their U.S. senators and representatives to emphasize the Save Our Stages Act’s importance. Community members can find who their local representative is at: www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
As Merrill emphasized, “People have to believe their voice means something. If you’re persistent, you can make changes. Use your voice. Make your voice heard.”
To support local venues’ individual financial aid efforts through donations or purchasing merchandise, visit their websites.
For more on the Athenaeum Theatre, log on to www.athenaeumtheatre.org. For the Chicago Loop Alliance, call (312) 782-9160. For Davis’s office, log on to davis.house.gov. To contact Duckworth, call (312) 886-3506. To contact Durbin’s office, call (312) 353-4952. Learn more about NIVA at www.nivassoc.org, to donate to the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund, log on to https://www.saveourstages.com/#donate-now. For Reggie’s, log on to www.reggieslive.com. For Thalia Hall, log on to www.thaliahallchicago.com.