ROGERS PARK — A homeless shelter in operation for four decades on the North Side is trying to move out of a Rogers Park motel and open it own building in the neighborhood.
North Side Housing and Supportive Services is looking to open a 72-bed shelter at 7464 N. Clark St. The organization needs a special-use permit to open at the site, a former medical office.
A shelter would expand the organization’s capacity to help unhoused neighbors and get them out of a temporary and costly situation at a local motel, officials said at a community meeting Tuesday.
North Side Housing has operated a men’s shelter since 1984, first in a church in Lakeview before moving to the Preston Bradley Center in Uptown in 2011. The Preston Bradley Center, a landmarked building home to social services groups, was deteriorating rapidly, said Laura Michalski, executive director of the group.
In 2021, North Side moved its shelter out of Preston Bradley Center and into the Super 8 motel at 7300 N. Sheridan Road. The move got the shelter out of a group housing setting during the pandemic, but it could only afford to put up 50 residents.
It is too expensive to remain in the motel. After a search for a location on the North Side, the shelter found the former medical building on Clark Street and a benefactor who will buy the complex for them, Michalski said.
North Side Housing is one of only two men’s shelters on the North Side.
“We can’t continue that indefinitely,” Michalski said at the meeting. “This is our plan to move out of the motel and into a better, more controlled environment for everyone.”
The Clark Street shelter would be nearly 10,000 square feet and have capacity for 72 residents. It would be a 24/7 operation, offering its residents and drop-ins three meals per day; access to computers, laundry services, job search assistance, case management and transportation; and would serve as a heating and cooling center, North Side Housing officials said.
North Side Housing would relocate its residents from the motel to the facility. It would also try to help residents of the tent city in nearby Touhy Park.
The tent encampment at Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina Ave., popped up during the pandemic. Working with Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) and city agencies, about 20 of the camp’s residents were matched with housing late last year.
The camp’s population has again swelled since then. Hadden held a meeting with Touhy Park neighbors and residents last week, and the city installed port-a-potties on the site to help with sanitation, she said.
Having a men’s shelter down the street could help the residents of the tent city, North Side Housing officials said.
Aside from being offered housing, the facility will offer drop-in laundry, computer, shower and social services, they said.
“Working with the clients of Touhy Park would definitely be a priority because they’re right there,” Michalski said. “We want to be part of that solution.”
The homeless shelter was the subject of a community meeting Tuesday held by Hadden.
Neighbors at the meeting spoke in favor and against the shelter, with some saying Rogers Park already has a high concentration of social services groups.
“We are getting overwhelmed,” one neighbor said. “The rest of the wards, they use the principal of [not in my backyard]. At some point, the other wards … have to share in the problem.”
North Side Housing officials said they got the support of local alderspersons to establish a shelter in their wards. They ultimately chose the Clark Street building because of its proximity to public transportation and because it is in a commercial area rather than a residential area, where support might be harder to gain.
Other neighbors said it is good to see a successful organization trying to establish itself locally and offer help within the neighborhood.
“I think it’s definitey something … we need,” one neighbor said.
Former Ald. Dick Simpson — who served two terms as Lakeview’s alderperson in the 1970s and was a volunteer and board member at North Side Housing — also spoke in favor of the shelter.
“I know there are a lot of services offered in Rogers Park,” Simpson said. “We all have to do this job, which is taking care of one another. … I beg you to think about this and think hard about why we have to continue a tradition of 40 years. I can’t tell you how many lives we saved in those years. It’s been in the thousands.
Hadden said her office will send out a community survey, which will be open for two weeks. There will likely be another community meeting on the topic before Hadden decides for or against the shelter proposal.
“More and more people are facing homelessness,” Hadden said. “This is a deeply difficult issue. We’re going to have to work on this and engage on this as a community.”
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