A Saturday town hall meeting in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood attracted parents, grandparents, homeowners, and business owners, who overwhelming said they want a methadone clinic relocated away from schools and daycare centers.
“That place is walking distance from two daycare centers, a playground and an elementary school. And children should not have to walk pass a clinic where drug addicts are leaving,” said Michelle Brooks, 61, a longtime Chatham resident. “I have lived in this community for 23 years and I have never seen such disregard for the welfare of children until now.”
The clinic, 110 E. 79th St., is owned by Nuway Community Services., whose owner, Olajide Solola, said the clinic is serving a need for the community.
“Our research shows that 95 percent of our patients come from this (Chatham) community, so what we are doing is helping many residents with their addiction,” he said. “I do understand your concerns with our closeness to schools, which is why we have security guards on site to make sure patients are not loitering outside.”
But that was not enough for many residents, who told horror stories about patients.
“I have seen patients from the clinic snort drugs in front of my home. I have seen them buy drugs too,” contends Elizabeth Smith, 64. “You’d be surprised what I see outside my front window everyday when these drug addicts leave the clinic.”
James Austin, 59, said he has seen patients break into cars after leaving the clinic.
“They walk up and down the block pulling on car doors to see if they are unlock and when they find one open they ramble through it. I have seen this first hand,” Austin said. “There are too many kids walking pass that place and it is a safety issue for them and residents. Some of these people are sex offenders and felons and it’s not good to have kids around them.”
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), who organized the meeting, told residents the clinic is licensed through the State of Illinois and not the city of Chicago.
“It is not a lot I can do from a city standpoint since the clinic is not licensed through the city. I did check with the (Chicago) Business Affairs office and it said no complaints had been lodged against the clinic,” Sawyer said. “I do plan to meet with state Senator Donne Trotter (D-IL) and state Rep. Elgie Sims (D-IL) to see what collaboration we could do.”
Residents said they have called the city’s 311 Center numerous times to complain about patients roaming through the neighborhood after receiving treatment at the clinic.
“I don’t know what the city does with complaints filed with 311 but I have personally called to complain at least a dozen times in the past two years,” added Maurice Weathers, 59. “The clinic needs to be placed in a remote area because its current location in smack dead in the middle of businesses, homes and schools.”
The services provided by the clinic are needed but the location needs to be changed, said Richard Wooten, a Chicago police officer and an associate pastor, who is challenging Sawyer in the city’s Feb. 24 election.
“I understand clinics like this are needed to help people with their addictions but to have it so close to a school [Martha Ruggles Elementary School] makes no sense.” said Wooten, one of three aldermanic candidates for the sixth ward. “I live and work in the sixth ward and I want to see this clinic moved elsewhere, which I will work towards doing after I am elected alderman next month.”
The meeting ended with local community groups and nonprofits, such as the Greater Chatham Alliance, who agreed to participate in a task force to monitor the operations of the clinic.
“If he [Solola] don’t get it together we’ll (GCA) protest outside his building everyday,” said Cee Powell, vice president of the GCA. “We did it before and we’ll keep doing it until he gets the message that we love our ‘babies’ too much to let them be exposed to this kind of behavior.”