Council rejects initial social services transfers, calls for restructuring of bureau


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz speaks at a City Council meeting. Bobkiewicz and other city staff members on Monday voiced concern about the potential reduction of victim services advocates.

Amelia Langas, Assistant City Editor

In an effort to cut costs, aldermen rejected a motion to hire one full-time and three part-time victim advocates for the Evanston Police Department’s Social Services Bureau.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, aldermen voted 4-5 not to pass the proposal, which was included in the suggested 2018 budget. However, they asked that city staff assemble a document detailing more options for organizing victim services and information on how the budget will be impacted in each case.

Currently, there are four full-time victim service positions in EPD’s Social Services Bureau and only two of them are filled, which city staff said was not beneficial to people in need of services.

“Our concern is coverage,” city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said. “We want to make sure that we can provide 24/7 on-call coverage for this and our concern is that with only two people the reliability to do that is really something we’re concerned about.”

Bobkiewicz said with only two full-time staffers, the department would have a “difficult” time catering to those who may need assistance in the “off-hours.”

The proposal for one full-time manager and three part-time employees — who would work 28 to 30 hours a week — would allow for their hours to overlap and introduce the ability to schedule overtime, said Evonda Thomas-Smith, director of Evanston’s Health and Human Services department.

“Unfortunately, some incidents just occur in the evening hours and occur on the weekend hours, and so not having that coverage would be incredibly concerning,” Thomas-Smith said.

Evanston chief of police Richard Eddington said his department houses the victim advocates, but their work falls under the purview of the Health and Human Services department. Eddington said having more employees means a more manageable workload.

He said the department “needs” all four positions to be filled. However, if the city were to keep the initial allotment of four full-time employees — rather than accept the proposed switch to one full-time and three part-time employees — it would continue to cost the city more than it can afford.

“We find ourselves in a difficult situation attempting to attend to the needs of the victims in the context of a $6 million mess,” Eddington said.

Originally, the cost for maintaining the victim advocates’ positions in the Social Services Bureau was $680,000, but the proposal to move the positions to the Health and Human Services department would decrease the cost by $400,000.

Although the proposal failed to pass Monday, Thomas-Smith said she wasn’t “married” to that idea, and is open to suggestions for how to structure roles. She added that there should be at least one full-time victim services manager with supporting staffers.

Bobkiewicz said staff will present the detailed document aldermen requested in a continued budget discussion at next Monday’s meeting.

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