OPINION Q&A: New Organization helps Uptown’s Homeless

By Todd Thomas

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An Uptown viaduct in winter. Photo by: Todd Thomas

Winter has settled into the Chicago area fast, and the elements are making the already difficult lives of the homeless in Uptown even harder than usual. The area known as tent city adjacent to Target on Broadway was cleared a few months ago, but the homeless making their residence in tents under the viaducts off of Wilson and Lake Shore drive are still there.

On a recent frigid afternoon there was some respite for the people there, and it was due to the work of Rev. Corey Gidron and his associates, as they set up shop accepting donations of winter clothing while serving hot meals of fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese and corn bread.

Rev. Gidron has started a new organization, Homelessness is Valued (HIV), and the event in Uptown was a new beginning for the organization – and hopefully Uptown’s homeless population. The 40-year-old pastor, who is also a CTA bus driver, spoke with the Uptown Exchange.

Explain the concept of your organization?

HIV means “Homelessness is Valued”. We are putting value, love and passion on the lives of the homeless. And we’re letting them know that they are not out here by themselves. We’re here and we’re going to help protect you. I know what HIV is known for, but we want to bring a new meaning to the term.

Why did you choose Uptown?

There is a lot of wealth on the north shore, but right in the heartbeat of wealth is poverty. We want to shine light on that and we want to help make a change and transform that. We want to let people know that life doesn’t have to be this way.

You grew up in Englewood on the south side: why not focus on that community?

In Englewood where I was born and raised there was homelessness, but not at this magnitude – it’s bigger here than it is in Englewood. You would think that homelessness would be more prevalent in Englewood, but it’s not. Homelessness is right here on the north side in the face of wealth, and where prosperity should be there are people living outside in tents. They need heat, and one of the main things I’m looking for is donations of propane heaters to keep people warm in their tents.

Explain why you chose to do this on your fortieth birthday?

My birthday this year will not be meant for me, I want a new meaning for my birthday. I want it to be meant for somebody else. I want to bring life, a smile and joy into the lives of others. I want to give more than I want to receive, and the gifts people have brought out here in the cold will help keep people warm, so it was well worth it.

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