Homeless mother and son who lived for months near Milwaukee-Lawrence intersection in Jefferson Park relocated to hotel after 16th District affinity officer builds relationship with them
by BRIAN NADIG
A mother and her 19-year-old son who had been living on a bench and in a tent near the Milwaukee-Lawrence intersection for more than four months are no longer living on the area’s streets following the assistance of 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District affinity officer Nikoletta Papadopoulos and social service agencies.
Since July, the mother and her son could often be seen sitting on a bench near the U.S. Postal Service Carrier Annex at 4810 N. Milwaukee and at night a tent would be set up near the bench. Residents would sometimes bring them food.
Then in October they relocated to Ainslie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Lipps Avenue.
Papadopoulos said that she had been offering resources to the mother for months but that she initially was reluctant to accept help, especially from a uniformed officer given that law enforcement had evicted them from their housing earlier this year.
Papadopoulos said that she eventually started to visit them in plainclothes, and with the help of Northwest Homeless Outreach, her relationship with the family improved.
“It took months to get her to trust me,” she said, adding that it is not unusual for homeless individuals to refuse assistance. “I’d check on them two, three times a week.”
The son has multiple medical issues and uses a wheelchair, Papadopoulos said. “They had to get off the street. They were not going to survive (winter),” she said.
Eventually they agreed to go to a suburban hotel, which Illinois Catholic Charities helped provide for 11 days, and the son is now living with other family members and is “in good hands,” and while the exact whereabouts of the mother is not known, she is believed to be safe, she said.
After months of getting to know the mother and her son, Papadopoulos said, the mother “thanked me” and said “I know you care.”
Affinity officers worked with populations who traditionally have been underserved by police. Papadopoulos said that she has gotten to know the homeless living or congregating at the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., but that they often will not accept assistance and may be battling addiction issues.