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Once Days From Closing, Uptown Mens Shelter Is Revamped Thanks to 'Heroes'

 The North Side Housing and Support Services men's shelter program is located in the basement of the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence Ave.
The North Side Housing and Support Services men's shelter program is located in the basement of the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence Ave.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — For all of 2016, Richard Logan had his eye on the North Side Housing and Support Service's Uptown shelter and its budget shortfalls.

He watched from afar hoping the government would extend an olive branch to the men's shelter located in the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence Ave. But as Christmas inched closer and closer, no one stepped up.

"I waited all year and I assumed the city —  I know they city has the money — [but] they didn’t stump it up. I waited for the state to stump up the money, they didn’t," said Logan, a director at the Reva and David Logan Foundation, which gives grants, scholarships and donations to social justice organizations, arts and investigative journalism programs.

The North Side Housing program first announced it was facing closure in the summer of 2016. About $255,000 per year, or half of its budget, is provided through contracts with the Department of Family and Support Services and the department was "unable to process contracts" without a state budget.

Hours after North Side Housing's Board of Directors voted to close the shelter, the State of Illinois passed a stopgap budget allowing the shelter to continue its service for the year, but leaving the future still in limbo.

As Christmas approached the future of the shelter looked grim and it began donating its furniture in preparation for the closing. Then, the Logan Foundation stepped in with a big donation.

"There are 80-something men, who would be out on the street or a worse situation if this shelter closed. They serve about 80 a night, or five or 600 hundred a year here. If it had closed it would’ve been one of the great tragedies... Yet another tragedy in this city," he said last week at an open house for the revamped Uptown facility.

"They got stiffed by the state budget and they ran over their budget. And they were a $100,000 short out of about a $700,000 budget... $100,000 a year to keep 80 men in a place like this is nothing," he said.

The foundation gave $400,000 to cover operational expenses for three years. That donation was complemented by a $25,000 from Bridgeview Bank and another $10,000 activist Andrew Holmes raised through GoFundMe that went towards a major makeover.

Last Thursday night, the shelter honored those who gave the donations and showed off the facility's newly painted walls, flooring, folding tables, office desks, refrigerators, industrial lockers, washing machines and dryers.

"A bank giving $25,000 to their local community? People will do the right thing sometimes," Logan said.

He praised the shelter's executive director Richard Ducatenzeiler and University of Illinois Chicago professor and former alderman Dick Simpson — who once worked at the shelter — as "real heroes."

"They went out and said we got the money give us back the contracts. We can do this. North Side Housing went out on a limb too. Even though they got that money, it's still a real stretch for them.  [And] you see the product here."

For those who've been to the basement of the Preston Bradley Center previously, the improvements aren't subtle. It was a bit "dim" like a penitentiary, said Antoine Thompson, a case manager for North Side Housing. Now, it has new vinyl flooring and the offices are painted a bright orange with new desks.

New printers for patrons to print out resumes and washers and dryers that can be operated by cell phone have also been added, he said.

Just a few months ago, it was down to just two clients with nowhere to go, but now it's back to 72 clients with 72 new lockers.