Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Starbucks in the News

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.

Agnes said:

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.


Don said...

I believe in treating everyone with as much dignity as is possible under the circumstances, in other words if they aren’t aggressive and are generally behaving in a civil manner. Therefore, I would think it wrong to ask a paying customer to leave a business establishment solely because it is suspected or even known that they are homeless. However, if their presence is disruptive to business because of poor hygiene or some type of offensive behavior, I think the operator of the business has a right to ask them to leave if their presence is likely to hurt the business. After all, they are in business to make a living and they have a large investment in the business. Public property is a different matter entirely and there are laws to protect the rights of everyone.

Sheila said...

Thanks, Don. I can always count on you to make sense. I do agree with what you said.

When I lived in Glen Ellyn, there was a segment of the village who had a snobby attitude of intolerance much like that found in the Old South toward blacks. It was a class thing. I have a feeling that these are the people fueling this lack of compassion.

If a person is quietly sitting and reading, I see no harm in letting him or her stay unless he's taking a chair away from a paying customer. And, I myself would like for someone to ask the loud cell-talkers and unruly kids to leave establishments such as restaurants and coffeehouses. Most people seem to run in, grab the coffee and go anyway.

Miss Trashahassee said...

Sounds like Miss Trashahassee needs to pay them there Starclucks a visit.

Miss T

Sheila said...

Miss T, I'm so glad you took time away from the trash to visit. If you visited the Starbucks in Glen Ellyn, the yuppies would have a conniption fit. If you don't have an aunt who was always throwing a conniption fit, then you ain't Southern.

Y'all go visit Miss T's blog for a real good look at a true Southern woman.

Don said...

Being obedient, I took a peek at miss trashahassee's site and would have bookmarked it for future peeks, but I couldn't find a URL or anyway to book mark it.

Sheila said...

Miss T's Trashology blog is found at http://www.tallahassee.com/legacy/special/blogs/tt/index.html

Don said...

Thanks for the URL.

Jak said...

I am very familiar with the current accumulation of the homeless/crazy/odorous people around the Glen Ellyn Starbucks, and the town in general. It IS a problem.
Compassion should not extend so far as to allowing unsavory flavours of people to be in a food establishment. I find that the un-mistakable smell of old urine tends to make me enjoy my coffee less. Call me cruel, but the business is NOT a homeless shelter, nor should it be.

Sheila said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences Jak. You are right that a business is not a homeless shelter, nor should it be as you say. However, in the case at Starbucks that received so much attention, the woman was apparently neither homeless or smelly. She was a paying customer. It matters not that she may have wanted to get ejected. And in a way, she's a real hero in my book for bringing light to a real problem.

What's your solution? Maybe this incident will inspire the creation of a day center for the homeless where a shower can be obtained and a warm spot found on a cold winter day. I know that Wheaton had a PADS facility where employment and social service help was available. The present solution of kicking people out is giving Glen Ellyn a black eye.

Sheila said...

Jak, after I had written my response to yours, I came across a recent story from the Daily Herald. HUD has given $3 million to organizations in DuPage County to fund homeless programs like Bridge Communities in Glen Ellyn which is a transitional housing program. You were right that homelessness is a problem, but it is one that we can't just turn people out on the street and let them fend for themselves while we sit in the Starbucks and enjoy our $4 lattes in a smell free environment. Heck, the odor from the coffee should drown out the possible smell from any homeless person anyway.

Jak said...

Although an attractive solution at first look, a day center for the Glen Ellyn homeless would not be an effective solution in practice. I spent almost a year living on the streets, and next to none of my daytime hours were spent lingering in a coffee shop. My main concerns tended to be finding a job. The "down-on-their-luck" image so often portrayed by the media and homeless-rights advocates is not an accurate picture of the, well, *bums*, that plague this particular Starbucks. I live a block away from the place, and one almost cannot approach in the day-time without suffering demands for money or cigarettes...DEMANDS! These are the people that Starbucks wished to remove from their business, not "hard-luck" honest people trying to pull themselves up from abject poverty - those brave souls aren't wasting time begging on the streets.
So what is The Solution?
Charity doesn't work, at least in the long-term.
Programs already exist to help people who want to work, find work. The bums, yes BUMS, in Starbucks are not those people.
"Homeless" is not forever. Of that, I'm living proof.

Sheila said...

Jak, I appreciate your comments. I'm glad you found a home.

There are down-on-your luck homeless people and these are the people who can benefit from the work of organizations like PAD in Wheaton. I think it's important to have a place to get cleaned up and get counseling, suitable wardrobes and help with other lifestyle issues.

You say the people "plaguing" this Starbucks are bums and panhandlers. Is there a Village ordinance to prohibit panhandling? How about vagrancy? I think some of these people are probably content to do as they do. They may be mentally ill but not a harm to people other than annoying them by existing and asking for money. I don't know what our society should do with these lost souls, but they are human beings nonetheless.

I guess I still see a drop in center as a way to contain people who the community seems to think are problems. Out of sight, out of mind.

Jak said...

Sheila, thank you for your patient insight. So many people on the internet tend to get over-emotional and irrational when people offer differing viewpoints - your well-paced, level-headed discourse is a joy to read!
When I declared that a day-time shelter was not The Solution, I thought you meant as an end to people's homelessness. I didn't think of the immediate (and convenient) benefit; that of removing the offending persons from the Starbucks (and downtown area.) A day-time shelter would be marvelous in that regard. I just don't know what the long-term benfits would be, as far as getting people off the street, and into homes/jobs, on a more permanent basis. (Just thinking ahead.)
Thank you again for the pleasant discussion!

Sheila said...

I wish we had answers for all of life's problems like this one. You seem to geniunely care and that's a rarity these days. But, somehow you turned your life around. I'm not so sure these guys panhandling want to do that. I guess I don't think everyone wants to be a productive member of society and maybe there's even some who are content to beg. Maybe they have given up. I know many mental conditions such as schizophrenia can play a big part in some of the homeless by choice folks. So, I guess this group might be the ones to benefit from a warm place and a cup of coffee on a cold day. These outsiders are cut from a different piece of cloth than the average American and I'm not sure how far we as a society can get to a place of understanding of what they need or want. I say we keep trying.

Anonymous said...

it's a bad way to kicked out people from their home.

Addiction Recovery Alabama

Anonymous said...


I know this post is YEARS old....but it was referenced to prove a point about a poster's humor on the GEBB, so I stopped by to read your post.

I agree with you whole-heartedly and appreciate both yours and Jak's opinions on the subject.

When you quoted Clamato, though....his post came across not as it was intended. He's actually one of the few on the board who agrees that homeless people should be treated as PEOPLE.

Now that that's cleared up....I would like to encourage you to post another blog in regard to this issue....this is something that needs to be addressed by the people of GE, despite that they may want to bury their heads in the sand about it. Please check out this more recent thread on the homelessness issue in our beautiful on the outside town: http://glen-ellyn.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/4016037172/m/871104554

Thanks for reading this,

Sheila said...

I just reread earlier posts and pretty much wouldn't change a thing I wrote. The fact that we are still discussing this issue is evidence that we haven't come very far.

I am again back in the western suburbs. This time working at a nonprofit organization in Carol Stream. While I don't live in Glen Ellyn now, I do fondly remember much of my time there.

Thank you GESinglemom2 for posting.

I occasionally see homeless folks in my job but mostly not. The folks I see have lost jobs, faced domestic abuse, medical problems. All seem to be trying to become unhomeless. The crunch still remains in my mind with the homeless men and women plagued by mental disabilities who seem to have no where else willing to deal with them.

Joshua said...

I have been reading these posts and I have been looking for this woman since 2006. She is an old dear friend of my family, very intelligent woman I may add. If you have any info on this center in GE or know of anyone I can contact to find her I would appreciate it. She lived with me for a short time and wwhen she left she told me she was moving out of state. I would love to find her. Please email me at whiskeygurl66@yahoo.com if you know the number to any of these centers she volunteed at. I hope I can stil find her. Thanks