Homeless shelters must be accessible for disabled

Many older adults cannot climb into a top bunk or navigate steep sets of stairs to go to a dinner hall. People who use wheelchairs need ramps to enter a building and elevators within a building. They require roll-in showers and accessible bathrooms.

SHARE Homeless shelters must be accessible for disabled
07-28-05 - 200 block S. Wabash, Chicago - A homeless man in a wheelchair looks for objects on the ground near a record store on the 200 block of S. Wabash Ave. Thursday in Chicago. Photo by John J. Kim/Sun-Times

A homeless man in a wheelchair looks for objects on the ground near a record store on the 200 block of S. Wabash Ave. in the summer of 2005.

Sun-Times files

Today, many people experiencing homelessness and in need of emergency shelter live with physical and mobility disabilities. All of Chicago’s homeless shelters should be fully accessible for everyone, including people who use wheelchairs.

Currently, only a handful of Chicago’s homeless shelters can fully accommodate someone with physical and/or mobility disability. This often means people living with physical or mobility disabilities wait longer for a shelter bed. In cold weather months, the additional wait time can impact their health and well-being. 

Many older adults cannot climb into a top bunk or navigate steep sets of stairs to go to a dinner hall. People who use wheelchairs need ramps to enter a building and elevators within a building. They require roll-in showers and accessible bathrooms.

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Chicago must be able to accommodate individuals living with physical and mobility disabilities in all current congregate emergency shelter settings. It is time to remodel and update all homeless shelters to be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Until that can happen, an ADA-compliant hotel voucher program should be established for homeless people living with a physical or mobility disability.

The ADA requires the City of Chicago to provide equal access to the many benefits that homeless shelters provide, including food, case management services, information, a place to sleep, safety and protection from weather-related illnesses. 

Monica Dillon RN, NWS Homeless Outreach volunteer, Chicago

Suggestions for the CTA

Inspired by the recent push to reopen the old Racine Green Line CTA station, I have been inspired to call on the transit agency to remove an unessential Loop train station — LaSalle/Van Buren — and construct a more useful Harrison Street station between the Adams/Wabash and Roosevelt stops. This change would benefit South Loop riders, specifically Orange and Green line users who rely on public transportation.

The LaSalle/Van Buren train station is adjacent to the Harold Washington Library State/Van Buren station. According to Google Maps, the distance between the two stations is approximately 600 feet. Many commuters riding on various lines come on and off the train at the Harold Washington station, while barely two to five people get off the train at LaSalle/Van Buren. Whether strolling in the South Loop or driving, you can pass both stations within seconds. The closeness between two stations may or may not have been convenient to riders in the past, but it seems obsolete in trips today.

A new Harrison station between Adams/Wabash and Roosevelt would be convenient for passengers, especially those who ride the Orange and Green lines. As a Jones College Prep student who rides the Orange Line, I have two choices now. I can walk two blocks to Harold Washington Library, get on the train and go around the entire Loop until I have a straight path to my stop. I can also walk four to five blocks southbound until I get to Roosevelt and catch my train there. Both options may be tolerable in good weather. However, as winter freezes us, or summer heat melts us, even one block downtown can seem eternal.

Aside from Jones College Prep students, Columbia College students and those staying at nearby hotels can benefit from this change in quick and efficient transportation.

Gianni Maldonado, Bridgeport

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