Oak Park, a city with population of 51,878 according to the U.S. Census, is a wonderful city to work, live and shop. Well, two out of three is not bad! The powers that be should publish a book they could sell at Border's (Oh they're closed), titled "1,000 excuses why people do not shop at Oak Park."
This week it is the panhandlers' fault. What will it be next week, the weather? Oak Park has a history of starting major construction projects that interfere with business. Look at 2007 when Marion Street was closed from June, a busy tourist season, up until November, or the new Marion Street project that just opened to cars and walking traffic.
There are a number of empty storefronts in Oak Park and a lot of businesses are for sale according to local MSL listings. Rents for businesses are high in Oak Park, and landlords are greedy. They do not want to work with businesses to make them stay. Businesses are scrutinized by government agencies for the littlest item. Parking is not cheap. In Forest Park the parking is free on the streets as it should be in Oak Park.
Tickets are given if you don't park right in Oak Park. Most panhandlers know there are social services agencies out there to help them. According to recent newspaper reports, these agencies are seeing more and more people due to the situation with loss of jobs. The agencies can't afford to help all individuals. The local paper talked about the food pantry cutbacks from the government. People are unable to receive food from these agencies.
So what good is a social service card to a homeless, hunger person? They should print the card on a sugar cookie. A person was interviewed on a local news channel from Oak Park and said, why don't they spend as much time looking for a job. What jobs? Illinois has a 10 percent unemployment rate which they low ball — 460,000 thousand people are unemployed in Illinois. Most of them have no unemployment. It has ended after 99 weeks, the most you can get from Illinois.
Instead of passing out social service cards, pass out gift cards or food gift certificates. Donate food to your local church or food pantry, or give to a nonprofit agency that will help. Don't complain about things! Do something about them all year-round, not just at the holidays.
Panhandling is an all-year problem. Don't make excuses about why people don't want to shop in Oak Park. I was past president of our town's local United Way, and I am very familiar with the needs of the community. Residents should take a look at the real issues in their town before pointing the fingers.
Frank G. Frangello