The Intertwining Cycle

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In the late Spring of 2009, a group of homeless
Champaign-Urbana residents formed
“Safe Haven” as means to provide a sense of
community and safety to homeless residents;
who were oftentimes, targets of abuse. This
group has been shunned by local government
officials because of their homeless status
and left on the brink of existence.
North End Champaign residents suffer a
similar plight. Though not homeless, North
end residents have been mistreated by local
officials and their needs have yet to been
adequately addressed. For decades, North
end residents have endured sub-standard
living conditions and inadequate community
resources. Local officials have underinvested
in infrastructure and services in the
north end, and have failed to sufficiently
redress environmental contamination. Politics
and neglect have translated into a silent
war against the poor. Developers and business
owners have been reluctant to revitalize
the community because of the possibility
of little to no return on their investment
and city officials have domne little to entice
them. Residents have attempted to work
with officials to no avail.
For years, the Champaign City Council
has failed to protect its vulnerable citizens.
by failing to adequately fund the Township
office, which provides services for the poor,
and by strict enforcment of zoning codes.
Disdain for the homeless among local officials
came through loud and clear, when
Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart was
asked at a city council meeting on May 12,
2009, where the evicted residents of Gateway
Studios were to sleep that winter, he
responded, “I don’t care.” This attitude is
also reflected in budget decisions. Instead
of funding the township office and a host of
social services agencies, the City of Champaign
has chosen to focus on business relations.
3.7 million dollars of tax incentives
have been offered to developers and contractors
while social services face debilitating
cuts. I speculate that local community
members and businesses are reluctant to
speak out on issues of homelessness and
poverty out of a fear of backlash.
In American society, we have bought into
the notion that the poor and homeless are a
product of their own faults and therefore,
are a burden to society. However, many of
these individuals have encountered financial,
physical, emotional or psychological
difficulties, which adversely influence their
life circumstances and chances.
The residents of the North End as well as
Safe Haven community members have been
neglected for far too long. The local government
has been unresponsive to the needs of
these residents and have attempted to keep
them out of public view. In so doing, local
officials are participating in perpetuating the
cycle of homelessness and poverty. For how
many more years, are the down-trodden
expected to survive in these conditions or
the mayor allowed to publicly say that he
doesn’t care about homelessness? The time
has come for these issues to be brought to
the forefront and to stop the intertwining
cycle of poverty and homelessness.

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