Department of Human Services head pledges to open local office on North Side
Loop North News

NORTH SIDE

(Above) Chicago office of Department of Human Services, located on one floor at 401 South Clinton Street in the West Loop (Jeanine H./Yelp).

3-Aug-19 – Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou says she is “one thousand percent committed” to finding space for a local office on the North Side of Chicago after DHS services were gutted under former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

“This is the first time that we know of that the top person at DHS has agreed to respond to these concerns in public,” said Fran Tobin, coordinator of the Alliance for Community Services, a community/labor coalition comprised of people with disabilities, low-income families, seniors, caregivers, and front-line public service workers. “There have been multiple steps and actions taken to get the relatively new admin to understand and respond to our concerns.”

Hou made her remarks at a forum at Uplift Community High School in Uptown on July 24 at which DHS clients spoke about lost and delayed benefits and other problems.

The Alliance has been pressing the state to open a fully-staffed office near the Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods north of the Loop. Dozens of community leaders, including State Representatives Kelly Cassidy (14th District), Sara Feigenholtz (12th District), and Greg Harris (13th District), have signed an open letter to current Governor J.B. Pritzker asking for a local DHS office.

Fran Tobin

Tobin (left) says understaffing at DHS has caused unprecedented overtime and record-late processing. Many local offices, he says, do not see any consumers some days each week, telling people they must come back another day.

Tobin says an Alliance delegation had a private meeting earlier this year with Deputy Governor Sol Flores, at which they were told their concerns would be taken seriously, but no commitments were made other than to meet again.

The Alliance has complained of computer glitches that they say resulted in delay or loss of benefits, and that DHS offices are poorly maintained, severely understaffed, and treat consumers like parts of an assembly line.

By Jim Vail | Loop North News | jvail900@gmail.com

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