Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-08-05
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Open Door may close amid staff firings, possible loss of funds
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Open Door Health Center of Illinois ( formerly Open Door Clinic ) is teetering on the brink of closure due to financial issues, according to current and former staff members.

The organization's mission, according to its website, "is a regional, patient-centered health care organization that provides services including education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment services to those who have or are at risk for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, in addition to the greater LGBTQ community."

Open Door has locations in Aurora, DeKalb, Elgin, Joliet and West Chicago and serves residents in DuPage, Kane and suburban Cook counties. This includes both healthcare and housing assistance.

The agency has been contending with financial difficulties and high turnover rates for about two years. Officials have attributed recent decisions to the COVID-19 outbreak, but current and former staff members allege that Open Door's problems started much earlier.

When more than 20 staff members, clients and funders arrived at the February board meeting, no board members were present. They were going to talk to the board about how grant funds have been allocated in the months prior to this scheduled meeting. Now some of these stakeholders are speaking out about what has transpired at the non-profit agency since that aborted meeting.

Former Facilities Manager Lynne Kennedy told Windy City Times that she and her sister, Carol Winters, who was Open Door's accounts payable manager, were fired March 27 via a phone call, after 12 years at the agency.

Kennedy said Interim Executive Director Dr. Zeba Geloo, who was first hired as the medical director in May 2019, called both her and her sister within 15 minutes of each other; both were told Business Operations Director and former Board President La Juan Baines and Jackie Throop from HR Source were in the room with Geloo.

Kennedy said Geloo told her that her entire department was being eliminated to save the clinic. Kennedy added that neither she nor her sister were offered a chance to come back to the building to retrieve their personal belongings.

Four others were fired that day, including Marketing and Communications Manager Jacob Harshbarger, and three were given reduced hours, according to Kennedy, who alleged that, to her knowledge, Geloo and Baines have done nothing to increase income for the agency since they assumed these leadership positions.

Harshbarger told Windy City Times that a number of board members and the board president have resigned since that aborted board meeting, leaving the board without a quorum. He also said that current executives at Open Door lack sufficient experience to address the agency's various issues.

"Because of this, both clients and employees are suffering and are in jeopardy of major deficits in healthcare and their livelihoods," said Harshbarger. "Our clients are not only challenged with managing their notably extraordinary health conditions but also face acute sensitivity to COVID-19. The possible closure of our clinic adds an exaggerated level of anxiety for all parties involved.

"Over the course of the last year, I have struggled with my health, leading me to require medical leave. I applied and was approved for medical leave that was scheduled to start on March 30 due to a brain tumor diagnosis. Instead of keeping me on the payroll while I was on medical leave, I was let go from my position March 27, right before my medical leave was to take effect. Now I have to contend with unemployment and more expensive COBRA coverage to deal with my medical issues."

Kennedy told Windy City Times that Baines told the staff on Nov. 13, 2019, that the previous executive director had stepped down and Geloo would be the new interim executive director. This despite the fact that succession plans stated that the assistant director would take over if the executive director left.

"At the start of the meeting, Baines announces, 'If anyone does not like this, they can pack their bags.' said Kennedy in her statement to Windy City Times. "People, of course are outraged and confused."

When Windy City Times reached out to Geloo asking why she fired these six staffers, she emailed, "You may be aware that 3.3 million people have been fired due to the consequences of COVID which includes some of our staff."

The turmoil at the agency is potentially imperiling rental payments being made for their clients, staffers say.

"I have been the Housing Program Coordinator at Open Door since August, 2016," said Jena Brauer. "Since January, I have been unable to get access to the funds needed to continue running the housing program per our grant responsibilities. In January, rent for our DuPage County program participants were paid late. The late fees that accrued as a result were not paid until the end of February, despite my team's constant attempts to have the payments approved by the director of business operations.

"Other agency expenses continue to be paid late or not at all. With the announcement of delayed evictions as a result of COVID-19, the director of business operations has asked that I call landlords and inform them that rents for April will not be paid. I have provided clarification regarding the continued requirements to pay rent on time and abide by all lease terms; however I have been dismissed."

Brauer also told Windy City Times that, in the past four months, 14 employees have resigned and six key positions were eliminated, with four of those individuals especially needing healthcare coverage— Harshbarger for his brain surgery, two elders at high risk for COVID-19 and Yvonne Viesca who was on FMLA mourning the recent death of her child.

Additionally, Open Door Client Advisory Committee Chairperson Louis Hobson said in an email statement to Windy City Times, "The HIV clinics in the Chicago area, including Open Door, are part of a new system called the Patient Centered Medical Home ( PCMH ). In this system there are essential services that must be provided to be a PCMH. If you do not have all of these components then you risk losing funding for the rest of the services. At this time, Open Door is missing mental and oral health. These two services rank right behind medical services. I believe that clients are entitled to quality healthcare. The service at Open Door has become unacceptable and needs to be corrected."

"This is so sad for our 1,500 clients, their families and our dedicated staff," said Kennedy. "Power without knowledge or compassion as well as not including the team has lead to failure at Open Door. Teamwork starts from the top."

"My concern is that this time of crisis is being leveraged to put off essential operating expenses and let valuable employees go, while contractors and leadership continue to collect high salaries that are not supported by their outcomes for the agency," said Brauer.

"I have been working as a Ryan White medical case manager for 10 years," said current Elgin location case manager Jay Bowling. "I love what I do, and love working with others who are passionate about the important work that we do. The last five months have been wrought with worry for my clients and myself. I worry that we will not be able to provide the services that our patients/clients so desperately need, and that at any moment, I may not have a job. It appears that the incompetence and arrogance of the new leadership will destroy Open Door and that the vulnerable patients and dedicated staff will be the ones who pay the price."

"No one should lose their housing assistance money because an agency goes out of business," said HIV Housing Task Force Co-Chair and former Open Door Clinic housing client Roy Ferguson.

Kennedy contacted the Illinois Attorney General's office last November after the shift in management. Kennedy and other former staffers filed a complaint alleging that Open Door is in violation of their grants because board members are not in compliance with mandatory e-learning that is required by the organizations grantors.

"This is an ongoing matter and we are continuing to look into it," emailed Illinois Attorney General spokesperson Tori Joseph to Windy City Times.

Windy City Times asked Geloo in an email why the housing program staffers are unable to access funds so they can pay the clients' rent like they always have in the past; whether she was taking a pay cut during this pandemic like other corporate and non-profit leaders have done; how the agency can continue to run properly when 20 people are no longer working there because they were fired or resigned; and her thoughts about allegations that grant funders are threatening to pull their money due to what has been happening at Open Door in recent months. Geloo declined to comment.

Baines did not return a request for comment for this story.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Restaurant association announces employee relief fund 2020-08-13 - Executives at the Illinois Restaurant Association ( IRA ) announced the establishment of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation ( IRAEF ) Restaurant ...

Gay News

Planned Parenthood of Illinois running 'Real Talk' sex-ed series for parents 2020-08-12 - Planned Parenthood of Illinois ( PPIL ) has launched a digital education series called "Real Talk: Creating Healthy Conversations with Young People." Designed ...

Gay News

Women Take the Stage Aug. 26 national online event 2020-08-11 - ( New York, NY ) On Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. CDT , top musicians, changemakers and activist icons gather for a virtual ...

Gay News

COVID-19 Pritzker launches emergency rental assistance program 2020-08-10 - Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Housing Development Authority ( IHDA ) announced that applications for rental assistance are now available for ...

Gay News

WORLD Israel incident, Cayman marriage, singer comes out, Poland arrests 2020-08-10 - The Israel Police arrested a 16-year-old from the central Israeli city of Lod on suspicion that he took part in a violent attack ...

Gay News

A peek inside The Crib's new location 2020-08-08 - The Night Ministry is now operating The Crib in a new location at 1735 N. Ashland Ave. The previous location in the ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart fall benefit Sept. 12-13 2020-08-08 - The Gerber/Hart Library and Archives fall benefit—"Saving LGBTQ History: Archives in a Time of Activism"—will take place Sept. 12-13 at the venue, 6500 ...

Gay News

WERQ! LGBTQ Job Fair on Sept. 18 2020-08-07 - Center on Halsted and Brave Space Alliance will hold the annual WERQ! LGBTQ Job Fair on Friday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at ...

Gay News

HRC Foundation, HIT release study on voters of color, voting by mail 2020-08-06 - The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Foundation and HIT Strategies released the first results of a national survey of voters of color, ...

Gay News

Holocaust Museum's virtual soiree Sept. 2 2020-08-06 - On Wed., Sept. 2, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center's Women's Leadership Committee will host its annual soirée virtually. The event will stream ...


Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.