Connections for the Homeless will host a panel discussion on solutions to chronic homelessness on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 a.m at the Lake Street Church, 1458 Chicago Ave. in Evanston.

The discussion will feature Connections’ Project 20, an initiative to provide housing to at least 20 people who are at greatest risk of dying if they remain living on the street through this year.

Project 20 receives funding from the Evanston Community Foundation.

Speakers at the breakfast, sponsored by First Bank & Trust of Evanston, will include:

  • Dr. Joshua Hauser, MD, a medical consultant for Connections who runs a volunteer-staffed health clinic on-site at Hilda’s Place transitional shelter every Monday night. Dr. Hauser has helped provide care to homeless patients for 15 years and volunteered at Maria Clinic for women and children on Chicago’s South Side and the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Boston, Massachusetts, before coming to Connections.
  • Dr. Sarz Maxwell, MD, FASAM, who meets with Connections clients once a week to provide psychiatric treatment, medication, and referrals. She is the Medical Director of Chicago Recovery Alliance, a needle exchange and harm reduction outreach program, and has her own private practice. Dr. Maxwell specializes in working with patients who are often difficult to engage:  mentally ill substance abusers, multiple personalities, and heroin addicts. 
  • Michael Hemkendreis, Case Manager at Connections and manager of the Project 20 initiative. Mr. Hemkendreis has a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and almost 30 years of experience working in the mental health field.

Based on studies published in the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, and Housing Policy Debate, it is estimated to cost a community at least $50,000 a year to have one chronically homeless person living on its streets.

These costs accumulate through emergency room visits, hospitalization, police intervention, court and penal system costs, and social services. At the same time, chronic homelessness ruins the health of those experiencing it, reducing their chances of achieving stable housing on their own and shortening their lives, typically by 20 years.

Future sessions are planned to address issues of family homelessness, homelessness prevention, and civic plans to end homelessness.

For reservations to attend a breakfast and for more information, see Connections’ website. Admission is free, but seating is limited to 35.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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