Code violations threaten to shut down Washington Park veteran’s shelter

“We need support and we need finances to be able to eliminate the fines that we’re facing…we need the community to say, ‘we value what you do and we want to keep you here.’”

By Emily Kramer

The Remake the World (RTW) Veterans Center, an organization located across the street from Washington Park that feeds homeless veterans, is currently facing $16,000 in fines and the possibility of being shut down after over five years of service.

According to RTW’s mission statement, the organization seeks to promote American patriotism by supporting veterans in the local community in conjunction with its affiliate Veterans Service Organization (VSO).

The RTW Center, located on South Martin Luther King Drive between East 55th and East 56th streets, was cited by the City of Chicago for 32 different code violations.

Some of the code violations, such as for malfunctioning smoke detectors and exposed electrical wiring, have been found to pose safety issues for the RTW staff. Other code violations, such as the requirement placed on the organization to acquire a licensed architect’s plans for the general revisions they plan to make, are more long-term and complicated issues.

With an approaching court date of December 1, RTW has been trying to correct as many code violations as possible while soliciting money to cover the fines.

On November 6, RTW hosted a fundraising event at Pazzo’s, an Italian restaurant located near the organization’s center. Tickets were $100 each and all proceeds went towards repairs on the RTW building and paying down the organization’s debt.

“The turnout was okay, but the event did not raise the type of money that we would have liked to have raised,” said co-founder of RTW Arnetha Gholston-Habeel. “We need more resources. We need a bigger building so that people won’t have to stand outside in the cold, waiting to eat. We need a bigger facility, and we need sponsors. We need people to know that we’re here.”

The RTW is not funded by the government because its mission is to support all veterans regardless of their discharge status, according to Gholston-Habeel. Funding from some federal programs cannot be used to serve people who received a dishonorable discharge.

At the start of 2014, Student Government (SG) donated $1,500 out of the Student Life Fee funds to RTW to help cover the $4,000 in damages that the organization was facing due to freezing temperatures.

Although the SG’s donation to the organization allowed it to repair the damages to the RTW center, many of the organization’s programs, such as its hot meals programs, remained shut down. The $16,000 in fines that the organization is currently facing is a much larger obstacle than anything the organization has encountered before.

“We need support and we need finances to be able to eliminate the fines that we’re facing,” Gholston-Habeel said. “We need the community to say, ‘we value what you do and we want to keep you here.’ We can’t survive without additional resources; we’ve already given all that we have.”

Donations can be made through the Go Fund Me page on the organization’s website.