Evanston aldermen review improvements to programs for high-risk residents

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

City Council discussed initiatives to coordinate different city services for homeless and at-risk residents Monday.

Officials from the Evanston Public Library and the city presented their plans to develop new programs in the next year that would help Evanston residents facing problems such as mental health, employment, academic difficulties and housing.

Evanston Health Department director Evonda Thomas-Smith discussed a central management system city departments can use to assist the same high-risk families and residents.

“Because many of the families touch each of our departments for different reasons, we thought if there was a single point of entry for our high-risk populations, then we can leverage resources differently,” Thomas-Smith said.

Although there are service providers that work in many different areas of life, there is a lack of coordination between the groups that stops the city from being able to “connect the dots” for some high-risk residents, she said.

Homelessness continues to be an issue for Evanston adults, especially families, Thomas-Smith said. Multiple families have had to start crowding into single houses, due to a lack of permanent housing. This could create tensions for both families in the same house, which increases anger management cases, she said.

In response to a concern raised by Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), Thomas-Smith said the health department has been looking into violence in the community as a public health issue.

EPL director Karen Danczak Lyons said there will be more coordination in youth education between the library staff and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and District 202 teachers. Lyons said the library wants to ensure students know what EPL offers.

To improve literacy and learning, the library will also partner with libraries outside Evanston and apply for grants.

Assistant city manager Marty Lyons said 2014 was a year of expansion with improvements to youth programs and other programs.

“It’s a very complex issue,” Lyons said. “We’ve come a long way in 2014… and 2015 is going to be a year of coordination.”

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