Homeless numbers remain steady

Brandt Siegfried , Reporter

Recently, homeless programs in the La Grange area have created tense controversy. Approval of a permanent BEDS Plus shelter at 9601 W. Ogden Ave. on Apr. 27, 2015 brought both sides of the issue to village board meetings. Even though services have expanded over the past few years, they have not attracted additional homeless people and their presence has not been attributed to an increase in crime.

“[Homelessness is in] just about every city,” La Grange Police Detective Ken Uher said. “It’s tough to quantify how many homeless people there are because they can be transient. There’s definitely a presence, [but] it’s not a very high number.”

While the BEDS program has been cited by some residents as a driving factor in continued homelessness by attracting people, the program has been positive in helping the area’s homeless population receive necessary services, Uher said.

“[Homelessness] is pretty consistent from the past years. I haven’t seen a dramatic increase or a drastic decrease,” Uher said. “I think there’s more of an awareness. If something does hit the newspapers it becomes more evident to people so their perception may be that it’s around more.”

Libraries have been a subject of scrutiny, as they regularly provide shelter for homeless people.

“At the most basic level we provide shelter for anyone. It’s not just limited to homeless people,” La Grange Park Public Library Executive Director Kate Buckson said. “We provide a relatively safe and comfortable environment for people to come when the weather is bad outside.”

The La Grange Park Library serves roughly three to four homeless regulars everyday. La Grange Park residents and the homeless are treated and served equally, Buckson said. Internet access, educational classes and space are available at the library to all people regardless of residential status. The staff at the library has made a point not to judge customers in any manner, Buckson said.

As with other libraries along train and bus routes, the library serves, in some cases, as the main shelter of some homeless people, Buckson said. The library also serves as a warming station during the winter months, providing a place to go for any of those requiring it.