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Cappleman-Salvation Army Dispute Latest Chapter In Alderman's 'War On Poverty'

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 4, 2013 8:30PM

2012_12_13_cappelman_small.jpg The Salvation Army and Ald. James Cappleman (46th) are at loggerheads over the Uptown alderman's request that the group stop feeding the homeless in his ward. Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown broke the news Friday night that Cappleman gave the Salvation Army 30 days to stop bringing its mobile social service outreach truck to Uptown to feed the homeless, the first step to helping the needy get drug treatment and assistance to get off the streets.

The Salvation Army was willing to comply with Cappleman’s request until Brown’s story. According to the organization’s Capt. Nancy Powers, who manages the mobile social service outreach program, the outpouring of support from Uptown residents was so great she changed her mind. Powers told DNAInfo Chicago:

"Our mission is to serve the folks who need us, to serve the needy. And if the need is that great in Uptown, then we're going to serve the needy where they are. We're not going to discriminate by location or alderman. We're going to serve where the ... the most need is.”

Powers said Cappleman believes the trucks have a Pied Piper effect in his ward, bringing people to, or at least keeping them in, the 46th Ward. Cappleman wasn’t happy and fired back at the Salvation Army and Brown.

In a letter posted to his website, Cappleman accused the Salvation Army of storming out of a meeting intended to encourage new approaches to helping the Uptown homeless. Cappleman stressed there were other social service groups with working soup kitchens near the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Marine Drive where the Salvation Army’s truck sets up shop from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. five days a week, and said the truck’s presence was a “disincentive” to the homeless seeking help.

”I also want to clear up the misconception that anyone would go hungry without Salvation Army Mobile Food Unit. Near where the Salvation Army Mobile Food Truck provides meals there are at least 6 soup kitchens in the 46th ward that provide meals seven days a week multiple times a day. This complete list is always available in my office to anyone in need of it.

“If the mobile food truck unit decides to move on and provide their services in another part of the city, one of my staff will make sure anyone who has been relying on this truck for meals will have this listing of places where they can receive meals and will know where the closest shelter and soup kitchen are. No one should ever have to be worried about where his or her next meal will be.”

Brown, in today’s Sun-Times, wrote that Cappleman waited until after his Friday story broke to respond to him.

”This would be the same alderman who wants us to believe he had no idea the Indiana farmer he enlisted to trap pigeons was going to take them back to shoot them.

“This would also be the same alderman who insists his only interest in shutting down the city’s last men-only cubicle hotels is out of concern for the welfare of those who live there.

“And this is the same alderman who waited more than 36 hours after I informed him Friday exactly what I was writing before saying it wasn’t true — an assertion he never made in two previous emails to me — until after the story blew up in his face.

“So who do you think I’m going to believe — Cappleman or the nice lady from the Salvation Army who was deferential to the alderman at all times in trying to explain his decision to run her mobile food truck operation out of Uptown.”

This is Cappleman’s most recent front in a war on poverty in his ward that appears to figuratively and, in the case of Uptown’s pigeon scourge, literally, sweep it under the rug. Readers will remember Cappleman was shoved by a woman last May who routinely feeds pigeons in his ward after he swept up some breadcrumbs she tossed on the sidewalk for them. Cappleman’s office also admitted he invited Indiana farmer Herbert Govert to come take a few of the birds out of the ward for pigeon shoots on Govert’s farm.

Then there’s the ongoing drama over single room occupancy hotels in Chicago, notably the Hotel Chateau. Cappleman announced the sale of the building in January. Renovations at the beleaguered hotel, which would include kitchens in each room, could boost rent for an apartment by as much as 57 percent. Affordable housing advocates fear the renovations at the Hotel Chateau would mean fewer affordable options for Chicagoans living near the poverty line, but Cappleman’s office recently promoted an article in the Sun-Times “Splash” magazine about the growing hipness of “microliving,” which “demonstrates just how fabulous 400 square feet can be.”

We can't help but look at Cappleman's actions and bring to mind The Elite, a character in “The Punisher” comic book who dresses in a three-piece suit, wears a mask designed like a police shield and patrols his neighborhood meting out violent and drastic punishments for “undesirable” things like hot dog carts and dogs pooping on the sidewalk. Of course, we know Cappleman won't stoop to dropping live grenades in food trucks, but his actions have the probability of being antagonistic to the social service groups who have been trying, however small the increments, to help fight the issue of poverty in Uptown long before he became alderman.

At least his predecessor Helen Shiller made it a priority to give a voice to these voiceless. Some of Cappleman's actions make it seem as if the problem would go away if he closed his eyes and counted to three.