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Helping Hands Of Springfield Ends Effort To Open Center For Health And Housing

Daisy Contreras
NPR Illinois
Helping Hands of Springfield announced Thursday the non-profit is ending its effort to open a shelter and medical clinic for the city's homeless.

Helping Hands of Springfield announced Thursday the non-profit is ending its effort to open a shelter and medical clinic for the city’s homeless.  

The Helping Hands board cited lack of funding and community support as reasons to end the project. The decision comes after negotiations and talks over a location turned contentious. 

“I think that Springfield has missed a huge opportunity — not only to address the issue of homelessness, but also for some innovative practices, talking about healthcare, talking about access to mental healthcare — these kinds of collaborations that create solutions," said Erica Smith, executive director for Helping Hands. 

Those who opposed the Center for Health and Housing said the location — a vacant building on the corner of 11th Street and Edwards — was their biggest concern. Some residents in that area said they worried the building was too close to a day care center. 

Helping Hands and other partners in the project said they looked at several  locations, but those vacant buildings would have been too expensive to renovate. The building at 11th Street was the most feasible option, they said. 

Smith said while the outcome is disappointing, Helping Hands will continue to expand some of its services as originally planned. "We plan to -- immediately -- within the next four to six weeks create space, so that if a father with kids is present, we can offer emergency shelter," she said. 

Last month, Memorial Health System — a major funding partner, decided to temporarily withhold support as talks over a location continued. Before that, the Springfield NAACP also threatened legal action over the city council’s 8-2 approval of the zoning change for the building. Several aldermen who voted in favor criticized Mayor Jim Langfelder for what they call a lack of leadership on the issue.

One day before Helping Hand's announcement, Langfelder tried to convene partners to discuss a different location and revive negotiations 

Daisy reported on statehouse issues for our Illinois Issues project. She's a Public Affairs Reporting program graduate from the University of Illinois Springfield. She also graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has an associates degrees from Truman College. Daisy is from Chicago where she attended Lane Tech High School.
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