Inner Voice Inc. community service organization hosted a special art installation ceremony Saturday outside one of its West Side facilities.

Inner Voice Inc. community service organization hosted a special art installation ceremony Saturday outside one of its West Side facilities.

Members of the community, including elected officials, joined the homeless, housing and supportive services organization in receiving a bronze sculpture depicting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights work for better urban housing in Chicago from 1965 to 1967.

The sculpture, officially called Passage, was installed outside of Inner Voice’s T.A.B. West/Wolfson Building family shelter at 2678 W. Washington Boulevard and embodies the spirit of the 27-year-organization, its interim director told the Defender.

It “personifies the Inner Voices mission and what it has stood for over the years and the opportunities we tried to create, particularly for those people who are in need of affordable housing in Chicago,” Abdullah Hassan, the interim CEO, said.

The sculpture was commissioned by the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and created by students there under the guidance of instructor Erik Blome.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece,” Hassan said. “It transcends time.”

And it also marks a time in history when some poor Blacks and other minorities in Chicago were faced with unsavory housing woes. Dr. King rented an apartment on the West Side of Chicago during his time here and became entrenched in Chicago’s housing scene, pushing then-Mayor Richard J. Daley to offer fair and affordable decent housing for the city’s poor.

But as things seemed to improve from that era, history would repeat itself – in a way, Hassan pointed out.

“Again we find it difficult for people to find affordable housing here in Chicago,” he said. “So many years ago it was an issue and it remains an issue today, particularly quality affordable housing. We do want our people to secure safe, clean and affordable housing.”

Inner Voices is in the process of further developing the site near where the sculpture was placed to include more affordable housing. Hassan said the organization is looking to develop 17 units at that location. The organization maintains a total of nine facilities and offers other housing assistance and benefits. It has 397 units of various types of affordable housing where the agency is either providing housing directly or doing case management for affordable housing residents, Hassan said.

He said his organization serves some 7,000 homeless men and women annually.

“We address homelessness from a wholistic perspective,” the interim CEO said. “We want to help individuals not only find a home but empower them with the ability and the skills so that that they can maintain housing over the long haul.”

Inspiration for the sculpture came from interviews with, among others, clients and workers of Inner Voices.

“You can see the results of those visits and the conversations in the piece as well. You could see how they really took the agency, as well as the civil rights movement – the Chicago Freedom Movement – into consideration when they designed the piece,” said Hassan.

The agency has benefited from aldermanic support. Though one side of the housing community on Washington is in Bob Fiorretti’s 2nd Ward and the other side in Walter Burnett Jr.’s 27th Ward, Hassan said the aldermen have been supportive. Fiorretti attended Saturday’s installation ceremony.

Nationally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development indicates that at least 750,000 Americans are homeless or without housing. Locally, the city’s housing authority and other organizations don’t offer an “authoritative count” of Chicago’s homeless but say the issue is a serious one.

Just as the sculpture installed Saturday was created through a collaborative effort and depicts a time when people had to come together to effect change, dealing with today’s housing issues – in the face of today’s economic challenges – will require a concerted effort too, organization leaders said.

“Community created this sculpture and community is what it’s going to take to end homelessness in this city. It’s a physical representation or manifestation of the work that has to be done here in the city to end homelessness,” said Bridget Elliot, the organization’s communications manager.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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