In my first four years at Unity Temple, a surprising number of parishioners, including members of my leadership, have shared with me that they have experienced homelessness. The availability of emergency housing in Oak Park made an enormous difference in many of their journeys to self-sufficiency and ability to stay in the area. Others had access to transitional housing elsewhere that was crucial in their path to financial stability.

Now that the YMCA plans to move and the current emergency housing units will be torn down, it would be immoral not to replace the soon-to-be-torn-down Single Room Occupancy shelter with some kind of supportive, emergency, and affordable housing. I cringe when I hear people express a “not in my back yard” sentiment. Emergency shelter in Oak Park has been here far longer than the vast majority of us.

As a relative newcomer to Oak Park, I have been inspired by our village’s commitment to diversity, both the history through the last 35 years, as well as the clearly articulated values of the recently elected village trustees. The emergency housing issue currently facing the village is an issue of maintaining economic diversity. It is also a moral issue of whether we shall provide resources for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

I urge the YMCA and the village trustees to act on behalf of our larger community and to ensure that supportive housing is replaced as the YMCA moves.

I feel so strongly about this because of the many formerly homeless individuals who, with the help of available emergency housing and local services, have moved to self-sufficient and productive lives. You’d be surprised just how many such people are among us. Because homelessness is a social stigma, most people who have experienced it don’t share their experience with others.

I hope that our community has the will, the vision, and the resources to support local initiatives to create more emergency housing and transitional housing to assist individuals and families capable of reaching self-sufficiency. Oak Park needs both emergency housing and long-term temporary housing if we want to be serious about helping people prevent and overcome homelessness.

Rev. Alan Taylor
Unity Temple

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