Sunday, April 4, 2010

CarePoint: Serving Our Forgotten Populations

113 Custer Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202

It is difficult in any economy for a nonprofit start-up to survive.  Financial struggles today are paramount as grant and foundation money becomes scarcer and the pool of potential individual donors shrinks due to high unemployment numbers.  Organizations that do survive tend to be led by visionary and driven individuals who are somehow able to keep things going.  So it is with the highest admiration that I write about CarePoint, whose founder Vincent Gillon, died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago.  Gillon, who suffered for years as a heroin addict, turned his life around after his sister died of an overdose.  He began working with agencies that served substance abusers, the homeless and people with HIV/AIDS.  He created CarePoint in 1998 to fill the gap in services he observed for underprivileged and marginalized populations.

CarePoint works with a number of populations on the north side of Chicago and in Cook County’s northern suburbs.  The major issues they deal with in the population they serve are:
·      Poverty
·      Mental Illness
·      Homelessness
·      Substance Abuse
·      HIV/AIDS
·      Viral Hepatitis
·      Incarceration

CarePoint’s philosophy is strongly rooted in an understanding that clients are not just navigating the struggles of one area.  They almost always have multiple issues to deal with at the same time.  This unique perspective allows them to be stronger and more effective allies for their clients.  They understand that many who are homeless also have substance abuse issues-and they very likely need job searching skills.  As a part of their comprehensive approach to client services, CarePoint collaborates with a number of social service agencies to help clients overcome obstacles.  They serve as an access point into the system of social service agencies for their clients and then provide assistance navigating that system.  Additionally, they also provide direct service to clients.  Here is the list of programs that CarePoint offers to clients:

·      Access to Recovery
o   Substance Abuse
o   Incarceration
·      Connections (to obtain social services)
·      HIV Testing and Prevention
·      Harm Reduction (i.e. syringe exchange, safer sex supplies, hepatitis/HIV testing/risk reduction counseling-offered on site and through outreach)
·      Hepatitis C Testing and Prevention
·      Job Center
o   Computer Access
o   Phone Access (with voicemail)
o   Job Search Skills Training
·      Youth at Risk
o   Academic Tutoring
o   Drug prevention Education
o   Safer Sex Education
o   Sponsored Enrollment in Chicago Park District Sports Programs
o   Referrals for Other Services

CarePoint provides extraordinarily important services to people who may otherwise be forgotten.  However, important funding has been cut from the State of Illinois budget; the organization hopes to be able to avoid cutting services.  Stephen Radler, former president of CarePoint’s board of directors, took over as the Executive Director following Gillon’s death.  Fortunately for CarePoint, Radler’s background includes experience in business and finance. Radler has worked to establish relationships with grant administrators and to stabilize the agency financially, aiming toward sustainable growth. 

If you are interested in helping CarePoint, the “How You Can Help” page on their website includes a request for monetary donations as well as a request for basic office supplies.  Additionally, there is a comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities.  The organization is having a profound impact on the lives of its clients.  By getting involved through donations or volunteering, I am certain CarePoint will have a profound impact on your life as well.