Clara's Place women's shelter abruptly shut down in West Englewood

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mothers and children who called Clara's Place home have been suddenly displaced after the longtime women's shelter was abruptly shut down.

Boarded up and deemed uninhabitable by the City of Chicago, Clara's Place has provided shelter for women and their children in the West Englewood neighborhood for years. But last week, the city abruptly shut the shelter down.

"We had ceilings coming apart from water damage, the basement had about four feet of water from burst boilers. My understanding is there hasn't been working hot water for months," said Ald. Ray Lopez, 15th Ward.

In addition, some units were without heat and the city said there were several leaks in gas lines leading to appliances.

Alderman Lopez's ward office shares the same building as Clara's Place. With a thermostat reading 35 degrees, Lopez must vacate as well. Despite being right next door, Lopez was not aware the shelter had been neglected.

Neither did Lashauna Wilcoxon. Four of her relatives were living at Clara's Place, and one is now living with Wilcoxon.

"We were under the impression they were getting their independence back, that wasn't going on at all," Wilcoxon said.

Wilcoxon claims donations to Clara's Place were not being passed along to the residents. Wilcoxon said she and her employer have made several donations to the shelter.

"You are taking advantage of those who really care for these families," Wilcoxon said.

Clara's Place was started by Clara Kirk. Alderman Lopez said that for years, the shelter had severe financial problems. After Kirk suffered a stroke last summer, Lopez said her son took over the operations, but did nothing to improve the place.

"It's putting the legacy of Clara Kirk in jeopardy as we have seen as well as putting lives of people in danger," Lopez said. "We can't allow that in our communities."

Neither Alderman Lopez nor city officials have been able to reach Clara Kirk's son or shelter board members. ABC7's attempts have been unsuccessful as well. If they did not find relatives to live with, the city placed the residents in other shelters.
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