[Hpn] Chicago, IL - Daley aide outlines plan for homeless - Chicago Tribune - December 10, 2003

HC Covington HC Covington" <hcc@icanamerica.org
Thu, 11 Dec 2003 03:47:19 -0500

Daley aide outlines plan for homeless

Priorities include job assistance
By Gary Washburn - Chicago Tribune - December 10, 2003

Chicago, IL - Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday named Carmelo
Vargas, a 19-year veteran of the city's Department of Human
Services, to head the department and lead Chicago's
initiative to end homelessness over the next decade.

Vargas, who had a tough life as a child after his family
moved to Chicago from Puerto Rico, urged people to do more
than give a handout to people on the street who ask for help.

"Right now for the holidays, take some time and just sit
down with a homeless (person) instead of giving him money,"
Vargas said at a City Hall news conference where he was
introduced by Daley. "Buy him lunch, buy him a breakfast and
just talk to him, and you will find out how interesting
those people will be.

"If you sit down and have a coffee with them, you find out
they do have a face, they do have a name," Vargas said.

"They do have a history. They do have a background. They do
have family. Most of them have children."

Vargas, 59, came to Chicago at about age 10, he said.

"It was difficult in the beginning. There were days when we
did not have enough to eat. I knew the discomfort of living
in housing without heat or electricity. I dropped out of
school in 7th grade to earn income to support my family."

Vargas worked as a short-order cook and burned himself so
many times on steam tables that he decided to take a new
direction, he said.

He ultimately received a bachelor's degree from Northeastern
Illinois University and did graduate work in urban studies
at Governors State University.

Vargas joined the Department of Human Services in 1984 and
rose through the ranks. He became director of the emergency
services division, in charge of providing shelter to the
homeless and disaster victims and setting up warming and
cooling centers, before being named a deputy commissioner
three years ago and managing the homeless outreach and
prevention program.

"Everybody who has dealt with Carmelo knows he is not the
kind of public official who spends all his time sitting
behind a desk," Daley said. "Carmelo has been the front line
for the Department of Human Services for almost 20 years. He
has been the person on the street."

Vargas said he will make the 10-year plan to end
homelessness the department's top priority.

The plan, unveiled by Daley in January, is designed to find
permanent lodging for people who live on the streets. A key
component is to provide such services as job training and
substance-abuse rehabilitation.

Assuming City Council approval of Daley's nomination, Vargas
will replace Ray Vazquez, who resigned to accept a position
with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

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