Aldermen talk tough with agencies

Aldermen on Evanston's Human Services Committee Monday demanded that non-profit agencies receiving city grants to help the homeless provide more information about their activities.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she was unable to get information about why a long-time Evanston resident with two young children hadn't been able to get housing assistance and now has been forced to move to the west side of Chicago where, she said, she's surrounded "by drug addicts and criminals."

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he'd met earlier in the day with Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Paul Selden, executive director of Connections for the Homeless

Jean-Baptiste said he was frustrated that although the city provides much of the agency's funding, it's "not being treated as a true partner" in doing the work.

He said the group has refused to provide city officials who have inquired about why someone was denied assistance any information.

"The response was that the information is confidential. Well, we have to audit them," Jean-Baptiste said, "the information shouldn't be confidential to the city."

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said it was shocking that city officials don't have such information. "That's a serious disconnect. That's just something that's not acceptable," Fiske said.

Referring to the case of the woman mentioned by Holmes, Fiske added, "We should take care of our own, but instead we've apparently driven her out of Evanston."

Holmes said, "The money comes to the city, people know that. They think the city ought to know how it's being spent. We've got to get that accountability back."

Steve Griffin, director of the city's Community and Economic Development Department, which manages the grant program, said that Connections has now agreed "to put on a new staff person just to deal with these case calls."

He said his staff is working to completely review the program, under which the city distributes more than $800,000 in federal grant funds a year, and would provide follow up reports at each of the committee's next several meetings.

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