UPTOWN — A Salvation Army official told DNAinfo.com Chicago Saturday night that "we are not going to compromise our mission," despite reports that Ald. James Cappleman (46th) wants the organization's social service outreach trucks to stop feeding the homeless and low-income residents in Uptown.
Captain Nancy Powers oversees the Salvation Army's mobile social services outreach unit that feeds hungry mouths Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the intersection of West Wilson Avenue and North Marine Drive.
On Friday, Cappleman said in a meeting with Salvation Army officials that he wanted the unit to cease operations in Uptown and the 46th ward within 30 days, Powers said.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown broke the news Friday night.
At first, Powers said, she was going to oblige Cappleman, given the demand from other alderman in the city who she said frequently request that the unit visit their wards.
But on Saturday she said that she won't budge, after all.
"Since the article came out, we have just been blown away by phone calls and emails saying, 'No. The need in Uptown is just too great, please don't leave,'" Powers said, adding that high-ranking city officials, social service agencies and clients have called with support.
"Our mission is to serve the folks who need us, to serve the needy. And if the need is that great in Uptown, then we're going to serve the needy where they are. We're not going to discriminate by location or alderman. We're going to serve where the ... the most need is."
Cappleman "doesn't like the feeding because he thinks that it is bringing people to his ward or at least keeping people in his ward," Powers said, citing her meeting with Cappleman on Friday. He did say, she said, that the social workers who accompany the truck could come, "but that he did not want us to feed anyone," she said.
The problem with that, she said, is that the food "is our calling card," to get vulnerable populations of people, including drug abusers and the homeless, who seek help through the Salvation Army or other social service agencies.
"But If I send two social workers to an intersection — nobody is going to come to see them. It doesn't work that way," Powers said.
Powers said a lot of the people come from nearby Single Room Occupancy buildings for low-income individuals, but that many of the clients are also homeless. Powers said she is willing to work with the alderman on times and locations that the unit operates, but that he cannot legally make the Salvation Army cease operations.
"We aren't going to compromise our mission. And we are never going to stop taking care of the folks who need us. That is who we are, and I am very proud to work with the Salvation Army for that reason," Powers said.
Cappleman could not be reached for comment Saturday, and his chief of staff Tressa Feher declined to speak about what she called a "private meeting," with Salvation Army officials on Friday.
The Sun-Times reported, however, that Cappleman wrote its columnist an email, saying, “We continue to be concerned about the plight of the homeless, especially during these cold winter months. As the Salvation Army mobile outreach unit tapers off, we are working with other social service agencies to try a new approach that we believe will be more effective with empowering these individuals experiencing homelessness to get out of the cycle of homelessness.”
Powers said she hopes that Cappleman "wants the best for all the folks in his ward."
"And certainly I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and reach out to him and say 'lets work together,'" she said.