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Fortitude makes case in 4th Ward

KANKAKEE — Facing opposition to its proposed homeless shelter in Kankakee’s 4th Ward, leadership of Fortitude Community Outreach took its case directly to the ward.

On a cool Tuesday evening in McBroom Park, Fortitude’s Dawn Broers, the organization’s executive director, fielded questions from a group of about 35 people — a significant portion of whom appeared to favor the shelter locating in the former United Faith Pentecostal Church, 1284 S. Fourth Ave.

And Broers made one point clear to those at the gathering: if Fortitude does not gain a conditional use permit to operate its shelter on South Fourth, there will be no shelter program this winter.

“There is no Plan C,” she again stated.

What that means, Broers explained, is if this request does not gain approval, the projected 30-bed shelter will not be available this winter and since there is no other shelter program in Kankakee County, the homeless will be on their own.

Since the program is seeking to locate outside of the center of the city, Broers was asked if she would consider locations outside of Kankakee, meaning perhaps Bradley or Bourbonnais.

She is not.

“The homeless are here. Kankakee is where we need to be.”

Fortitude will be presenting its plans to the Kankakee Planning Board at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Kankakee City Council chambers. The group is seeking the needed zoning change and conditional use permit to operate the shelter on South Fourth.

The two requests will also need to be heard and approved by the Kankakee City Council before anything can take place on the site.

The Fortitude shelter season normally is conducted from Oct. 1 through May 1. If all goes as planned by Fortitude, this year’s shelter season would begin Nov. 1 at the earliest as time would be needed to prepare the new site.

IS AN EXTENSION POSSIBLE?

One Kankakee elected official attended the approximate one-hour question-and-answer session and that was 4th Ward Alderman Lance Marczak. Marczak did not talk during the program.

After the meeting, Marczak stated he would like Fortitude to consider staying at the downtown Kankakee site — in the former St. Paul’s Lutheran School building — for a second year due to factors which have plagued the shelter program in securing an alternative site.

Marczak was mainly speaking of the skyrocketing costs of building materials which forced Fortitude to abandon its plans to build a shelter location on donated vacant property in the 200 block of North Entrance Avenue.

Broers has repeatedly stated a second year at St. Paul’s is not an option as the council was clear last year that the 2021-22 shelter season would be the final one allowed there.

She has not discussed an extension at the location.

Marczak also noted the program could return to its rotating shelter schedule it used during its first few years of operation.

“Due to time constraints, I think these are options which could be implemented. We obviously need to shelter people, whether that be using the rotating shelter or a second year at St. Paul’s,” he said.

Fortitude has shelved the North Entrance project. Broers noted the shelter was to be built on donated property, but the planned cost of $550,000 to $575,000 ballooned to $1.2 million, mainly as a result of the spiking costs of building materials.

She noted no matter how the group and their general contractor worked to reduce the cost, it became far too expensive.

Broers noted the only way that project could move forward is if Fortitude received financial assistance from the governmental bodies of the city of Kankakee and Kankakee County.

FACING OPPOSITION

The issue with placing a homeless shelter, Broers explained Tuesday, is there will always be opposition.

The 4th Ward site is no exception. At the Aug. 1 Kankakee City Council meeting, ward resident Larry Enz presented a petition signed by more than 90 residents in the immediate area of the proposed site for the shelter who were against this development.

Fortitude leadership, Broers noted, has been knocking on 4th Ward doors for the past week and has a petition signed by more than 120 ward residents in support. She said there is also an online petition signed by 230 Kankakee County residents supporting this move.

“We expect opposition. It’s just a normal thing,” she said of placing a shelter. “We have to be located somewhere.”

She said the common misconception of the homeless is they are to be feared. She said that is simply not the case.

She said 60 percent of homeless people are employed. For a variety of reasons, however, they are not able to maintain their own residence.

Broers noted some Fortitude residents take shelter only once and they never return, most likely because they found other living arrangements.

Some are occasional visitors. But one thing is clear, she noted: the homeless seeking shelter do not need to be feared. She said they are simply looking for a place to lay their head.

“The homeless are here, Broers said. “There is not one ward that does not have homeless in it.”


Kankakee
Two new art exhibits on Kankakee's Merchant Street

KANKAKEE — Two new art exhibits have popped up in locations on Merchant Street in Kankakee — and they couldn’t be more different from each other.

Happening throughout the month of August at the Kankakee Public Library is “60 Years A Legend,” by Alan Byron Hampshire. The New York artist now lives in Kankakee and has previously taught art workshops at the library.

His current exhibit honors the 60th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death on Aug. 4, 1962. Paintings on the library’s third floor depict different angles of Monroe.

More pieces are still being added, as is a special unveiling that is to come with Hampshire’s artist meet and greet, scheduled for 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15 at the library.

For more information, go to lions-online.org. Kankakee Public Library is located at 201 E. Merchant St., Kankakee.

Down the street at Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists With Autism, a new exhibit opened on July 29. Running through Oct. 21, “Beasts in their Biomes and Landscapes” is an art show featuring different creatures in their environment and rolling landscapes of different types.

The show features paintings, dioramas, sculptures and more. One particular piece by Jovan Ponnambalam is mixed media, including paint and fabric.

Gallery director Janice Miller said that when Ponnambalam first started taking workshops around age 21, he wouldn’t say much other than repeating things others had said. When he wanted to share information on the gallery with his classmates, he was unable to communicate using his iPad because there was no button for “art gallery” in his communication app.

Miller said that this inspired him to talk because he wanted to share his hobby.

“We’ve had some real success stories and that’s one of them,” said Miller.

For more information, go to merchantstreetartgallery.org. Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists With Autism is located at 356 E. Merchant St., Kankakee.


Illinois
Pritzker eying Indiana firms after abortion law signed

SPRINGFIELD – Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker said this week that he is actively reaching out to businesses in Indiana and other states that have recently passed restrictive abortion laws in hopes of luring those companies to Illinois.

“Well, already I’ve reached out to companies that are affected in Indiana. I want to make sure that they know that they’re welcome in Illinois, any expansion that they may be looking to do, that we welcome their employees,” Pritzker said at a Monday news conference.

His comments came just days after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, signed into law a near-total ban on abortions in that state, making Indiana the first state to enact a new law restricting abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade which had previously legalized abortion nationwide.

Indiana’s new law bans the procedure except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies or when the pregnant person’s life is at risk.

The day after Holcomb signed that bill, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company, one of the state’s largest employers, issued a statement saying it would look to expand its workforce outside of its home state.

“We are concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s – and Indiana’s – ability to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent from around the world,” the company said. “While we have expanded our employee health plan coverage to include travel for reproductive services unavailable locally, that may not be enough for some current and potential employees.”

That statement helped highlight the growing fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the decision that overturned Roe, exposing both the political and economic consequences of the ruling.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports abortion rights, Illinois is one of only a handful of states – and the only state in the Midwest – with laws specifically protecting access to abortion services.

Although Indiana was the first state since the Dobbs decision to enact a new law restricting abortion, several other states had so-called “trigger laws” on the books that only went into effect once Roe v. Wade was overturned. Others, including Wisconsin, had dormant laws on the books that predated Roe and were unenforceable until Roe was overturned.

But on Tuesday, Aug. 2, voters in the conservative state of Kansas overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given their state legislature broad power to enact abortion restrictions, a response to a 2019 state supreme court ruling that found the state’s constitution protected abortion rights.

In Illinois, Pritzker has worked with abortion rights advocates to expand access to the procedure, even promoting the state’s more permissive laws to encourage patients from other states to travel here for services.

On Thursday, Aug. 4, Pritzker announced the state would increase its Medicaid reimbursement rate for abortion services by 20 percent, effective Sept. 1, as a way to provide increased resources to abortion providers who are seeing increased patient loads due to women coming to Illinois from other states.

“Illinois abortion providers have been working overtime since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade,” Pritzker said in a statement announcing the change. “They need support as they take on this new burden on the frontlines of this fight. Supporting them with reimbursement increases allows them to focus on their important work without worrying about rising costs of supplies and services.”

That move drew a sharp rebuke from Illinois Right to Life, a group that opposes to abortion rights, which called the action an “incredible misuse of funds by the government in Illinois.”

“Like most Illinois abortion law, this increase in taxpayer-funding of abortion is in direct opposition to what a majority of Americans believe about the issue,” the group’s executive director Amy Gehrke said in a statement.

Pritzker has also tried to make abortion rights a central issue in his campaign for reelection to a second term, contrasting his support for those rights with the views of the Republican candidate, state Sen. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, who in 2017 compared abortion in the United States to the Nazi Holocaust.

“The attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn’t even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion since its legalization,” Bailey said in a video statement at the time.

Other Illinois Republicans have distanced themselves from such remarks while still endorsing Bailey for governor. State Rep. Tom Demmer, of Dixon, the GOP candidate for state treasurer, said during a Tuesday news conference that he doesn’t want abortion to be a major issue in the election.

“You know, we’re talking about, again, some of the things that Illinois Republicans have fought for – fair maps, term limits, rejecting (the) graduated (income) tax. These are things that have widespread bipartisan support,” he said. “These are the kinds of things we’re going to fight for and build a majority coalition around.”


Crime
High bond set for woman wanted in Indiana

KANKAKEE — Jenny L. Servies, 43, of Kankakee, was arrested Tuesday on a fugitive from justice warrant by the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department.

The arrest came during a traffic stop in Kankakee at 4:11 p.m. The deputy had dispatch check the status of Servies’ license plate, which came back as a suspended license.

The bond amount for the warrant was set at $100,000 on Oct. 27 by Kankakee County Circuit Judge William Dickenson. It was on that date Servies was before Dickenson dealing with an arrest warrant for a case in Indiana.

A check of court records in Lake County, Ind., showed Servies has a 2018 theft case still open.

According to Kankakee County records, Servies then asked courtroom personnel if she could use the restroom.

When she did not return in a reasonable amount of time, a review of security surveillance video showed Servies walk past the second-floor restroom and then out of the courthouse.


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