LGBT people have long protested Salvation Army for anti-gay stances, but a controversy brewing in the city's Uptown neighborhood may be turning out LGBT support for Salvation Army services.
Openly gay 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman is under fire following a Chicago Sun-Times report that stated that Cappleman ordered a Salvation Army truck, which typically distributes free meals and other social services, to leave the neighborhood.
Cappleman denies that version of events.
The controversy started March 2 when Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote that the alderman ordered the Salvation Army Mobile Food Truck to stop serving meals in the neighborhood.
According to Brown, Capt. Nancy Powers, head of the Salvation Army's homeless program in Chicago, said that Cappleman, "decided he felt the unit was pulling homeless into the area, and he does not want us to feed them."
Powers initially said the truck would be leaving the area. She later reversed that stance after a flood of supportive calls, stating that the truck would stay at Wilson and Marine as it was legally allowed, according to a DNA Info report.
Cappleman has taken heat in recent months for other issues impacting low-income people in his ward. The recent sale and pending closure of the Chateau Hotel, one of the city's dwindling single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotels, sparked public outcry from housing activists who blamed Cappleman for failing to maintain affordable housing options in his ward. Cappleman countered that the building is too unsafe to inhabit.
The latest fray with Salvation Army has sparked backlash against Cappleman, especially from LGBT people who organized a protest against him for March 6. More than a 150 people on Facebook have said they will attend the demonstration.
"Poverty, homelessness and hunger are a reality for a growing number of people in Chicago and across the country," the event page for the protest reads. "We need to DEAL with this reality, not try to push it out of our view and ignore it."
In a statement released to media outlets, Cappleman said that he was concerned that the mobile food truck was creating a "disincentive to those in need of sustained help."
But Cappleman, a former social worker, said that he never asked the Salvation Army truck to leave the neighborhood.
"There's just no element of truth to it," Cappleman said.
He alleges that it was Salvation Army representatives who walked out of the March 1 meeting, offended by his suggestions and requests for data on outcomes.
Cappleman said he has been working with area social services providers for months in an effort to cut back on duplicated services and make the most of the community's resources.
He said the meeting with Salvation Army was an attempt to strategize on chronic homelessness in the area, not to push the truck out of the neighborhood.
"My entire life, much of it, has been working with the most disenfranchised," Cappleman said. "Why would my values suddenly disappear when I became alderman?"
The protest against Cappleman is scheduled for March 6 at 5 p.m. at his office, 4544 N. Broadway.