UPTOWN — Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said a one-year pilot program aimed at breaking cycles of chronic homelessness and substance abuse will debut this month on Uptown streets afflicted by crime, vagrancy and public drinking.
Social workers and police will join forces to observe areas reported to have a high volume of public drinking arrests, and to motivate folks on the street struggling with addiction to break their habit, while connecting them with social services, Cappleman said.
"This is a system that is addressing those people that fall through the cracks," said Cappleman, whose ward includes most of Uptown and part of Lakeview.
Many of the people seen as vagrants in Uptown are homeless, and many of them, Cappleman said, are "self medicating because of mental illness."
Stretches of Broadway, Wilson and Sheridan would be among the areas on which the program will focus.
Adeshina Emmanuel discusses the program's goals and potential pitfalls on DNAinfo Radio:
Initially set for a January debut when Cappleman announced it in the fall, the program ran into some snags related to securing funds and structuring it, he said. The program has more than $110,000 in community development block grant funds, enough money for two full-time licensed clinical social workers and a van.
Cappleman wrote in an email to constituents Friday that the program resulted from his efforts to bring together police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Evelyn Diaz "to work together on a solution."
"I'll lay out the problem," Cappleman said, describing the program to DNAinfo Chicago in an interview last week. "In this neighborhood we've had a lot of chronic drinking, and it's involved people, some of them, with hundreds and hundreds of arrests."
The result of the problem? A lot of costly hospitalizations and emergency room transports and jail time. Arresting offenders, Cappleman said, puts them in jail but doesn't remove them from cycles of substance abuse or, in many cases, homelessness.
Meanwhile, the police and criminal justice system spends a lot of public money in the process, Cappleman argued.
Making his point, he mentioned Shermaine Miles, a woman who frequents the area and has a history of alcoholism — and a lengthy rap sheet with offenses from public drinking to armed robbery.
Her 396th arrest came in August 2012, when Cappleman saw Miles sitting on the sidewalk and drinking a beer at Broadway and Montrose. The alderman decided to call the cops on her, so Miles decided to chase him and eventually shoved him into some bushes. She was charged with aggravated battery.
"It was the alcohol I was drinking that turned me into a monster," she told the Sun-Times after her release last year.
Miles was arrested for the 397th time months later, charged with mugging a 63-year-old man.
If the yet-unamed pilot program works in Uptown, Cappleman said that it could be replicated elsewhere in Chicago.
Cappleman emphasized that locations where shootings have occurred in Uptown are often places where there is "a lot of public drinking," echoing his past references to the "broken windows" theory, which holds that ignoring smaller crimes can lead to an increase in more serious offenses.
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