100 gather to help Elgin revamp group to help homeless
The city of Elgin held its first public meeting for a group designed to coordinate services for the homeless and will start meeting monthly instead of quarterly.
Thursday's meeting of the group Community Assessment and Management of People Needing Shelter -- known as CAMPS -- was attended by about 100 people representing the city, police department, social service agencies, churches, hospitals, mental health organizations, housing groups and more.
"It's really humbling to see this many people who have such a passion for helping with homelessness in Elgin," Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez said.
Elgin garnered national media attention in early January after the city told a resident to stop allowing homeless people to sleep in his basement due to safety reasons. Plans to revamp CAMPS had been in the works long before that, Valdez said.
A little more than 100 homeless people live in Elgin, a low number compared to cities in California, said police Deputy Chief Bill Wolf, who attended a conference there focused on the homeless issue.
CAMPS was spearheaded a few years ago by the police department's social services supervisor, JoAnn Stingley.
Thursday, Stingley and her staff asked for volunteers to serve on two committees: to explore creation of a "day room" for homeless people, who often hang out in the police department's lobby, and streamline ways to help the homeless obtain IDs, which are essential for services.
It also would help to develop an information sharing agreement among the city and social service agencies that are bound by confidentiality but sometimes duplicate services for the same clients, staff members said.
The police department is working to turn its social services website into a "one-stop shop" with clear information about obtaining various services, Cmdr. Ana Lalley said.
Doug Henke, who lives in a tent, commended the city for doing "a fantastic job" in taking care of the homeless by providing emergency shelter and donations of winter clothing.
Lawrence Myers, who lives in his car, said the city needs to provide public restrooms for the homeless.
The city last year looked into The Portland Loo, a stainless-steel, flushable toilet used by several cities across the country. The Portland Loo would cost more than $100,000 and there are no plans to move forward with that, Valdez said.
The CAMPS meeting was useful, said first-timer Denene Lawyer, who started as a social worker at Presence St. Joseph Hospital six weeks ago. "It opened my eyes to the different places I can call" to serve patients who are homeless or have mental health or substance abuse problems, she said.
Resident Greg Schiller said he had allowed homeless people to stay in his basement in December because there are no low-threshold centers open year-round in Elgin. Those are shelters that allow people even if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A local newspaper reported this week Schiller owes thousands of dollars in child support for his 12-year-old daughter, who lives in Georgia with her mother. Schiller said he plans to make payments once he achieves his goal to open a low-threshold shelter and starts earning a salary.
Homeless: Social services official hopes to streamline process for getting IDs