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HIV/AIDS outreach center repeatedly vandalized

Monday, August 06, 2012

A Chicago center that reaches out to people with HIV and AIDS is having a tough time providing all its services.

The center in West Garfield Park has been repeatedly hit by vandals who have stolen electrical wiring and parts of the air conditioning system.

Chicago police say vandals broke into Vital Bridges Center on Chronic Care three times in July.

In the first two incidents, the offenders cut the buildings' electric cables leaving them without power for weeks.

The center provides low- income HIV/AIDS patients in Chicago with food.

"All of our coolers, our freezers that store our meats and dairy products, were out," said Laura Ritland, food and nutrition manager at the center. "All of our computers were out, our telephones, they were all out."

The vandalism forced the staff to remove food for the clients of the HIV/AIDS assistance center to other sites.

A couple of weeks ago, vandals went on the roof of the center and stole the coils from a large air conditioner. Ritland believes they did it for copper, which is sold as scrap metal. Replacing the damage will cost the center at least $50,000.

"This is $50,000 that we are unable to use for our programs, in the food program, the nutrition program, case management, housing," said Ritland. "It really impacted our clients in that they were unable to get the good sources of protein and meat and eggs and the dairy products that they can't normally afford."

Sean O'Gara, the center's medical care and case management coordinator, says they could not reach clients because phones and computer lines were down.

"They're stuck not knowing what to do and possibly missing out on their medical appointments and not being able to get the medication they need to maintain their health," said O'Gara.

"This almost makes it impossible to try to provide resources and the information that they need to carry on with their lives," said William Jones, the center's housing specialist.

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