Homeless shelter set to close days before Christmas

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CHICAGO -- Northside Housing has called a basement space in Uptown home for five years, providing a place for homeless men to sleep and stay warm for a time. But that time is coming to an end just days before Christmas.

After running a deficit for years, the organization asked the City for help. But none was available. And facing an uncertain budget environment in Springfield, Executive Director Richard Ducatenzeiler said they had no choice but to close the shelter for good.

"If you went by our shelter you would see there's nothing fancy about it. No fancy decorations, or even really nice beds. We just want to keep the roof over their heads and food on their plates," Ducatenzeiler said.

Months ago, facing a budget deficit of $100,000, North Side Housing made the decision to close its 72-bed shelter and lay off 7 staff members on December 23. 14 residents remain there, with 7 still unsure where they will go. In an area known for being hospitable to Chicago's homeless, the shuttering of the shelter due to budget issues that can be traced back to the state budget stalemate is tough for many to take.

"We're talking about real people. We're talking about real lives. People's lives are at stake here," Ducatenzeiler said.

It's particularly difficult because the shelter is one of only a few that accepts single men. If housing isn't found for those 7 remaining men, they may find themselves using temporary warming shelters operated by the city.