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You Paid For It: A Little Bit Of Heaven Homeless Shelter Gets $452,000 City Contract Despite Owing $21,000 In Fines For Building Code Violations

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A homeless shelter on the South Side is crawling with bugs, and filled with decay and potential dangers. Some men who stayed there said it's not fit for humans, despite getting big bucks from taxpayers.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory went inside A Little Bit of Heaven, which is now under investigation by the city.

Two men who stayed there used to stay there agreed to talk anonymously to CBS 2 about the shelter.

"It looked like a pretty nice building," one man said.

"My impression of the shelter was here's a place that needs some work, and that's okay," a second man said.

That's because, for them, some place is better than no place to rest their heads at night.

"It's not the Hilton, and I wasn't expecting that," one man said.

They also weren't expecting bed bugs, roaches, or blood-stained sheets.

Other pictures from the shelter revealed dirty floors and decrepit bathrooms.

"These are not the types of situations you would wish upon anyone from a humane standpoint," one man said. "It's alarming. It's alarming because it makes you wonder: 'Where's the oversight'?"

A Little Bit of Heaven executive director Sheila Braxton was taken aback by the claims of the two former clients.

"This agency has been here 20 years under the city. So you know if something was out of order, seriously?" she said.

Good question.

Why would the city sign a two-year, $452,000 contract in 2019 if an administrative hearing case is still open from 2018, stemming from a laundry list of building code violations? The building was cited for having:

  • Washed-out mortar in a chimney and parapet wall,
  • Rusted iron stairs,
  • Loose or rotting boards or timbers in an exterior wall,
  • Missing sections of downspouts,
  • Cracked steps,
  • Defective doors,
  • Missing handrails and treads on stairways,
  • Exposed wires
  • A broken smoke detector
  • And a sagging ceiling

"We did have a leakage problem from the winter pipe burst, but all of those have been repaired," Braxton said.

Asked about a crumbling wall in a stairwell, Braxton said the damage is just cosmetic, and it's repair is on a never-ending to-do list.

Braxton also shared receipts from other repair work performed in the past few weeks; including $12,766 to replace all the doors, another $478.88 for hardware on the roof, $96 for a new toilet, and $18.95 for cleaning supplies.

She said she paid for some of those expenses out of her own pocket, but really taxpayers fund this; $25,000 came from a recent state grant.

That's on top of the $452,000 from the city's two-year contract.

The city has yet to respond to a request for comment on why it would renew a contract with a shelter it knew had building code violations.

Meantime, A Little Bit of Heaven still owes the city $21,000 in fines.

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