In Defense of Alderman James Cappleman: He's Right About The Salvation Army Mobile Trucks

Have you ever come home to a dice game on your doorstep?

Or someone passed out in front of your door wallowing in there own bodily waste?

How about witnessing a young teenage girl performing oral sex on a man old enough to be her grandfather by your building's dumpster?

I have.

Those three incidents took place in Uptown where I lived from 1996-2001.

But before I get into anything, let me give you full disclosure:

I have known Alderman Cappleman for well over fifteen years and count him as a close friend.

I worked with Alderman Cappleman when he was a private citizen and a community activist with such organizations as C.A.P.S. (Community Alternative Policing Strategy) and the Uptown Chicago Commission.

I also won the Florence Bezazian Citizenship Award in 2001 for my C.A.P.S. work from the Uptown Chicago Commission.

I was one of two co-beat facilitators for my C.A.P.S. beat (2311) from 1999-2000.

That all being said, I have a some insight into the current "controversy" and Uptown in general but for now let me just give you the perspective of someone who had and has lived around social service agencies.

The incidents I started this post with, were in my opinion, a direct reflection of two things:  Poorly manged social service providers and Uptown's "anything goes" reputation.

Since my unemployment I also understand, probably better than most, the need for a social service safety net.  I get it---literally.

Nonetheless, I applaud Alderman Cappleman for having the sheer audacity to hold social service agencies to a higher standard of service to their clients.

I likewise applaud him attempting the difficult task of trying to negotiate the socially and politically charged atmosphere of Uptown.  As a society we are judged by how we treat the least among us but he also realizes that not everyone wants to wade through human excrement and liquor bottles on  a daily basis on their way to the lake.

Or not be subjected to leering and cat calls as they walk through the park.

The Salvation Army has a noble mission.  One that they carried out for many years with an overnight facility at the Tom Seay service center at 1025 West Sunnyside.

For whatever reason they felt that their mission would be best served by making it "more mobile and not restrict their services to a single building."   Accordingly the service center was shut down and eventually sold the building for $1.2 million dollars (US).

From what I can gather, it's perfectly fine for the Salvation Army to change it's strategy to combat poverty and homelessness but it's not okay for a neighborhood and a ward do to the same.


The off ramps, viaducts and park due west of Lake Shore Drive between Irving Park and Foster are filled with people camping and living in the park.  A direct violation of City of Chicago laws and Chicago Park District rules  .

Alderman Cappleman has consistently initiated homeless outreach missions to accurately gauge the situation that presents a hazard to all the constituents of his ward---not just the ones with a permanent address.

He is correct when he says that the food trucks provide a "disincentive" for the homeless to seek permanent solutions to their problems.  Where is the motivation to adhere to a shelter or a program's rules when you can brazenly disobey the law and live in the park and get fed?

I don't remember such an outcry when former 48th ward Alderman Mary Ann Smith endorsed a move to enforce the 11 p.m. park curfew in response to a shelter closing at the Epworth Church in Edgewater.

Ultimately both former Alderman Smith and Alderman Cappleman wanted the same thing.

I wonder if Mr. Brown had know of former Alderman Smith's strategy if he would of labeled her as "downright dangerous?"

Even if the Salvation Army honored Alderman Cappleman's wishes and stayed away, those who are being serviced by their mobile outreach wouldn't starve.  The notion that the homeless will go hungry in Uptown without the Salvation Army mobile truck is ridiculous.

One of my former neighbors summed up the controversy thusly:

"The Salvation Army's food truck program was part of what drew and kept people here. Certainly it's important to feed the hungry and help the needy. But this recipe of help was maintaining the status quo and endangering the community. The more important work, transitioning people out of dire circumstances was not being done, at least not with this population by this social service agency.

There are others who do that kind of work. Many within a block or two of this program. What those organizations aren't doing -- and the Salvation Army is -- is using food as a carrot to draw in a population and then retreat, leaving the homeless behind for the community to deal with.

And be sure that the ones who stay behind are the ones that refuse help, who don't travel the block or two to a facility, who start fires, defecate in public and harass passersby.
Why isn't the Salvation Army walking the park at night, finding them shelters? Why is it evil to expect them to this? Isn't it their mission?

There are many well meaning people in Uptown. Residents log long hours of volunteer work, support programs like the Boys and Girls Club, Alternatives, Heartland Alliance and Inspiration Corp.-- all in addition to supporting their families, working, etc. They don't get paid by a social service agency, it's not their full time job and it's not too much to ask that the ones who say it is, actually do that job and not leave it for others, as the Salvation Army has with this program.
Insist the community endanger themselves and their children to preserve this program?  What are you doing?"

So if he took the Smith approach and clears out the park after 11:00 PM would he still be "downright dangerous?"  Would he still be accused of trying to make the homeless disappear?

I wasn't at the meeting between Alderman Cappleman and Sgt. Nancy Powers.  I don't know what was said.

I do know James.  How's he's being portrayed is inconsistent with the man I've called a friend for all of these years and I don't believe a word of it.

He's not heartless.  He's not a Democrat in name only.  He's a rational, compassionate man who is trying to actively trying to make a positive difference in people's live.  Yes, that means upsetting the apple cart of the status quo but change is the only constant in life.

Mr. Brown, You are clearly at odds with the Alderman, that fact is clear.  Must you deride him and his "licensed clinical social worker" status?  It's snide and lends itself to a tone of high school bullying.

Really, sir?

Stop it.  You know better.

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