click to enlarge Erica Smith, director of Helping Hands, explained plans for a new homeless shelter to a crowd at the Boys and Girls Club on July 24 that included plenty of upset neighbors. - PHOTO BY BRUCE RUSHTON
Photo by Bruce Rushton
Erica Smith, director of Helping Hands, explained plans for a new homeless shelter to a crowd at the Boys and Girls Club on July 24 that included plenty of upset neighbors.


A recent article covering a proposed Health and Housing Center troubled me (“Done deal? Look before making Ward 2 a dumping ground again,” Aug. 1).  The article stressed negativity and discontent. Homelessness in Springfield is a huge challenge and needs answers to questions and positive clarification of facts. Only the last paragraph suggested constructive approaches such as involving neighborhood associations, churches, social service agencies, police and the homeless persons themselves in planning the suggested Health and Housing Center. I believe the individuals and groups who served as catalysts for the town hall are very open to that kind of participation and collaboration.

The town hall held on July24 was an effort to present what is possible for a better and more holistic approach to assisting homeless persons. The proposed Center for Health and Housing is an opportunity to provide multiple services in one central location. Note the name of the Center does not even mention homelessness. Proposed services could be available not only to homeless persons, but to others in the neighborhood who might need what Memorial Medical Center, SIU School of Medicine and other social service agencies hope to offer. I wish the article had added some of these pluses a central location for holistic services can provide.

Addressing homelessness is a justice issue in our Springfield community. We urgently need to move in a favorable direction in assisting homeless persons. A priority in this effort is participative decision-making. As a community, we need to collaborate in a positive way to enable a Center for Health and Housing. I have confidence that we can do this.

Helping Hands is providing a “Lunch and Learn” on Tuesdays from noon to 1 p.m. at 1023 E. Washington St. Hopefully these meetings will provide an opportunity for interested individuals to participate in the important discussions around creating needed services for homeless persons. I anticipate future articles that will reveal more about an emerging plan for a Center for Health and Housing.

Marilyn Jean Runkel, O.P.


As a resident of 15th Street, I am writing in support of the proposed Center for Health and Housing on  11th Street (“Done deal? Look before making Ward 2 a dumping ground again,” Aug. 1.)  Although I can certainly understand the objections of the Pioneer Park residents and their questioning of the credibility of assurances being made by Helping Hands regarding management of the population that would most likely be using services offered at the Center, I still feel that the greater good for the Springfield community as a whole would be best served by having one centrally located facility available 24/7 and 365 days a year, as proposed.

To locate such a facility on the perimeter of the city or in buildings that would require more extensive renovation (as well as rezoning) would be counterproductive. Meanwhile, the obvious and chronic need to provide housing, medical and mental health care, substance abuse counseling and basic food, shelter and hygiene to our less-fortunate brothers and sisters continues to increase daily. I urge IT readers to support the rezoning of the 11th Street location and final council approval as proposed.

Dennis Darling


Fifty years ago this week, as 450,000 people descended on Sullivan County, New York, for the weekend of the Woodstock Music Festival, my wife and I (as newlyweds) were working at a camp just down the road from the venue.  Rather than attend the event, we opted to vacate the area that Friday and drive up to Boston.  I have never since seen anything like the 25-mile gridlock in the southbound lanes as we made our way northward from the area.  It never occurred to us at the time that we were crossing paths with an epoch historical event.

Bill McGee

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