Note: This is long. Please read it and think about the incident described. I'd be curious to see what my readers think.
Booted from Starbucks
News from my former hometown, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is troubling. Alerted by son Jeff, I checked out the Daily Herald for the details. A few weeks ago, a 70-year-old woman, Louise Kilborn, was kicked out of the downtown Starbucks claiming it’s because employees mistook her for a homeless person.
In the four years since I left Glen Ellyn has the village grown so coldhearted as to treat people this way?
Kilborn wasn’t mollified by the apology from corporate Starbucks. "The issue here is not that I was asked to leave Starbucks,” Kilborn said. “It is the treatment of the homeless who are singled out.”
According to Kilborn, she had purchased a cup of coffee and had just sat down next to a homeless man she knew from Glen Ellyn’s Welcome Center (open Sunday afternoons for sheltering homeless). He told her he’d been asked to leave and when Kilborn was likewise told to skedaddle, she refused and police were called.
Kilborn, herself once homeless, said, “No one should be humiliated like that.”
DuPage County is thought of as a wealthy county on the whole and that is what troubles me about this issue. What do we do with those who aren’t making it? I once worked in DuPage County Human Services and saw firsthand the plight of some of the county’s poorest residents. Yes, even an affluent county like DuPage has a sizable homeless population. Back then, and I believe it still is the case, overnight shelter was provided to homeless people by the area churches on a rotating basis through an organization called DuPage PADS. Churches in downtown Glen Ellyn provided shelter on certain days as well as a food pantry.
Who are the homeless? Statistically, the typical homeless person in DuPage County is a single white male age 41 with at least a high school diploma who has never been to prison. In addition to limited funds, most homeless persons are dealing with other issues such as mental or physical illness, domestic violence or substance abuse. A whopping 79% of families thrown into homelessness are there because of domestic violence.
I only remember one homeless “regular” about town when I lived there--a bearded fellow who rode around on a bike with all his earthly belongings perched on the handlebars. Yeah, I’d see him outside on the bench in front of Starbucks, but he never bothered me or asked for money.
Yet, this issue continues to be one we can’t quite figure out--not in Glen Ellyn, not on other Main Streets in America. DuPage County does have some transitional housing programs but not enough. No mother and her children should have to sleep in their car. But they do, even in DuPage County. I know because I tried to help them.
I was a little curious to see what the citizens of Glen Ellyn thought of the issue and checked out the Glen Ellyn Message Board Forum for insight.
The article’s headline makes the whole thing seem reprehensible...until you read further. The woman who was asked to leave admits, that she 1. was once homeless herself, 2. volunteered at the Methodist Church’s “welcoming center” for the homeless, and 3. was actually sitting down talking to a homeless regular when she was asked to leave.
I think she was hoping that this would happen and had the phone # of the local reporter on her speed dial.
I say good for Starbucks for finally taking control of the situation. The library can’t do it because they are a public entity, but a private concern should be allowed to do what they need to do to make their customers want to keep patronizing them.
Clamato had this to say:
So where does one draw the line? Personally, I do not like to be in the presence of groups of 13 and 14 year-old boys. They are loud and obnoxious...seldom clever...and order drinks that I cannot afford. Yet there they are...sitting in Starbucks causing more trouble than most of the homeless stinkpots do. Do they get kicked out? Also, I am very uncomfortable with the elderly women that are there on a daily basis with there hair that is washed once a week at 499 West...wait, that guy went out of business...at Linea. They smell like cooked cabbage and remind me of my impending death. I would like to see their time inside limited. I think we all agree on African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians, too. They gotta go. Let's see...who is left? Oh, yeah...well-off white folk. I'm all good with them.
“Until a larger solution is found, one volunteer at Glen Ellyn’s Welcome Center has a simple suggestion: treat the homeless like everybody else.”
P.S. Starbucks Gossip has more on the topic.