The Cook County’s Sheriff Office is ramping up efforts to help people beyond the jail cell. Last year, the office opened its Community Resource Center in Humboldt Park.
Korless Bernard has spent 15 years doing prevention and intervention work with the sheriff’s office.
“There’s this idea that we are here to apprehend and we’re here to arrest,” Bernard said, “and there’s so much more that we do.”
Bernard has been helping people inside Erie Family Health Center in Humboldt Park for the last year. That’s where the sheriff’s office opened its resource center.
“We go based on the individual on whether or not they want one resource or another, and sometimes they come in don’t know what they need,” Bernard explained. “The more we chat and talk and are the lending hand, we open the doors to many different opportunities for them.”
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart launched the initiative.
“We’re doing all this work with people and mental illness and working with their individual issues, but then when they would leave us, they would go out to the community with minimal services,” Dart said. “And I said, OK, we will set up our own services office.”
The program initially started virtually during the pandemic to connect those released from custody with everyday resources like mental health services and assistance with housing and employment. To make it available to a bigger population, the Community Resource Center started operating inside Erie’s health hub.
Marianne Kelly, assistant executive director of the Community Resource Center, said the goal is to use databases to help people with whatever assistance they need.
“Navigating a system whether you’re recently out of custody or on electric monitoring or you’re facing eviction or you don’t have a place to stay — the things that may seem simple to accomplish for you become tough,” Kelly said.
Bernard, a case manager, said she’s supported dozens of individuals through their journeys.
“They struggle with a lot of different things,” Bernard said. “It ranges, but we try to isolate what those struggles are. I think housing is one of them, just trying to find where to start.”
Dart said it’s an opportunity for law enforcement to help people on different levels.
“Do we do law enforcement? Of course we do, that’s part of the office,” Dart said. “But also part and parcel to that is to be working with the community.”
The Community Resource Center is open for walk-ins from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.