Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Pre-order Book!
Pre-order Book!



Open Door may close amid staff firings, possible loss of funds
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

This article shared 6016 times since Sat Apr 4, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Open Door Health Center of Illinois ( formerly Open Door Clinic ) is teetering on the brink of closure due to financial issues, according to current and former staff members.

The organization's mission, according to its website, "is a regional, patient-centered health care organization that provides services including education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment services to those who have or are at risk for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, in addition to the greater LGBTQ community."

Open Door has locations in Aurora, DeKalb, Elgin, Joliet and West Chicago and serves residents in DuPage, Kane and suburban Cook counties. This includes both healthcare and housing assistance.

The agency has been contending with financial difficulties and high turnover rates for about two years. Officials have attributed recent decisions to the COVID-19 outbreak, but current and former staff members allege that Open Door's problems started much earlier.

When more than 20 staff members, clients and funders arrived at the February board meeting, no board members were present. They were going to talk to the board about how grant funds have been allocated in the months prior to this scheduled meeting. Now some of these stakeholders are speaking out about what has transpired at the non-profit agency since that aborted meeting.

Former Facilities Manager Lynne Kennedy told Windy City Times that she and her sister, Carol Winters, who was Open Door's accounts payable manager, were fired March 27 via a phone call, after 12 years at the agency.

Kennedy said Interim Executive Director Dr. Zeba Geloo, who was first hired as the medical director in May 2019, called both her and her sister within 15 minutes of each other; both were told Business Operations Director and former Board President La Juan Baines and Jackie Throop from HR Source were in the room with Geloo.

Kennedy said Geloo told her that her entire department was being eliminated to save the clinic. Kennedy added that neither she nor her sister were offered a chance to come back to the building to retrieve their personal belongings.

Four others were fired that day, including Marketing and Communications Manager Jacob Harshbarger, and three were given reduced hours, according to Kennedy, who alleged that, to her knowledge, Geloo and Baines have done nothing to increase income for the agency since they assumed these leadership positions.

Harshbarger told Windy City Times that a number of board members and the board president have resigned since that aborted board meeting, leaving the board without a quorum. He also said that current executives at Open Door lack sufficient experience to address the agency's various issues.

"Because of this, both clients and employees are suffering and are in jeopardy of major deficits in healthcare and their livelihoods," said Harshbarger. "Our clients are not only challenged with managing their notably extraordinary health conditions but also face acute sensitivity to COVID-19. The possible closure of our clinic adds an exaggerated level of anxiety for all parties involved.

"Over the course of the last year, I have struggled with my health, leading me to require medical leave. I applied and was approved for medical leave that was scheduled to start on March 30 due to a brain tumor diagnosis. Instead of keeping me on the payroll while I was on medical leave, I was let go from my position March 27, right before my medical leave was to take effect. Now I have to contend with unemployment and more expensive COBRA coverage to deal with my medical issues."

Kennedy told Windy City Times that Baines told the staff on Nov. 13, 2019, that the previous executive director had stepped down and Geloo would be the new interim executive director. This despite the fact that succession plans stated that the assistant director would take over if the executive director left.

"At the start of the meeting, Baines announces, 'If anyone does not like this, they can pack their bags.' said Kennedy in her statement to Windy City Times. "People, of course are outraged and confused."

When Windy City Times reached out to Geloo asking why she fired these six staffers, she emailed, "You may be aware that 3.3 million people have been fired due to the consequences of COVID which includes some of our staff."

The turmoil at the agency is potentially imperiling rental payments being made for their clients, staffers say.

"I have been the Housing Program Coordinator at Open Door since August, 2016," said Jena Brauer. "Since January, I have been unable to get access to the funds needed to continue running the housing program per our grant responsibilities. In January, rent for our DuPage County program participants were paid late. The late fees that accrued as a result were not paid until the end of February, despite my team's constant attempts to have the payments approved by the director of business operations.

"Other agency expenses continue to be paid late or not at all. With the announcement of delayed evictions as a result of COVID-19, the director of business operations has asked that I call landlords and inform them that rents for April will not be paid. I have provided clarification regarding the continued requirements to pay rent on time and abide by all lease terms; however I have been dismissed."

Brauer also told Windy City Times that, in the past four months, 14 employees have resigned and six key positions were eliminated, with four of those individuals especially needing healthcare coverage— Harshbarger for his brain surgery, two elders at high risk for COVID-19 and Yvonne Viesca who was on FMLA mourning the recent death of her child.

Additionally, Open Door Client Advisory Committee Chairperson Louis Hobson said in an email statement to Windy City Times, "The HIV clinics in the Chicago area, including Open Door, are part of a new system called the Patient Centered Medical Home ( PCMH ). In this system there are essential services that must be provided to be a PCMH. If you do not have all of these components then you risk losing funding for the rest of the services. At this time, Open Door is missing mental and oral health. These two services rank right behind medical services. I believe that clients are entitled to quality healthcare. The service at Open Door has become unacceptable and needs to be corrected."

"This is so sad for our 1,500 clients, their families and our dedicated staff," said Kennedy. "Power without knowledge or compassion as well as not including the team has lead to failure at Open Door. Teamwork starts from the top."

"My concern is that this time of crisis is being leveraged to put off essential operating expenses and let valuable employees go, while contractors and leadership continue to collect high salaries that are not supported by their outcomes for the agency," said Brauer.

"I have been working as a Ryan White medical case manager for 10 years," said current Elgin location case manager Jay Bowling. "I love what I do, and love working with others who are passionate about the important work that we do. The last five months have been wrought with worry for my clients and myself. I worry that we will not be able to provide the services that our patients/clients so desperately need, and that at any moment, I may not have a job. It appears that the incompetence and arrogance of the new leadership will destroy Open Door and that the vulnerable patients and dedicated staff will be the ones who pay the price."

"No one should lose their housing assistance money because an agency goes out of business," said HIV Housing Task Force Co-Chair and former Open Door Clinic housing client Roy Ferguson.

Kennedy contacted the Illinois Attorney General's office last November after the shift in management. Kennedy and other former staffers filed a complaint alleging that Open Door is in violation of their grants because board members are not in compliance with mandatory e-learning that is required by the organizations grantors.

"This is an ongoing matter and we are continuing to look into it," emailed Illinois Attorney General spokesperson Tori Joseph to Windy City Times.

Windy City Times asked Geloo in an email why the housing program staffers are unable to access funds so they can pay the clients' rent like they always have in the past; whether she was taking a pay cut during this pandemic like other corporate and non-profit leaders have done; how the agency can continue to run properly when 20 people are no longer working there because they were fired or resigned; and her thoughts about allegations that grant funders are threatening to pull their money due to what has been happening at Open Door in recent months. Geloo declined to comment.

Baines did not return a request for comment for this story.

This article shared 6016 times since Sat Apr 4, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Lighthouse Foundation prepares for upcoming Black LGBTQ equity survey
Chicago-based Lighthouse Foundation hosted an online presentation April 15 to discuss its upcoming Black Queer Equity Index project. The initiative—announced last winter by Rev. Jamie Frazier, who heads the foundation ...

Gay News

LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois celebrates 25th anniversary with new brand
--From a press release - CHICAGO - The LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois (LGBTCC) is celebrating 25 years of advocating for LGBTQ+ businesses by unveiling a refreshed brand and logo created by its creative agency of record TimeZoneOne (TZO) a ...

Gay News

Belting for Life Sunday May 16, streaming through May 31
--From a press release - CHICAGO - Jeff Award-winning director and HIV+ activist Christopher Pazdernik presents the 6th annual Belting for Life (formerly known as Chris' Birthday Belt Fest), an annual benefit concert for Howard Brown Health, one of the nation's ...

Gay News

Equality Florida, HRC condemn Florida House passage of trans sports ban
--From a press release - Tallahassee, FL - The Florida House has voted 77-40 to ban transgender girls from playing sports alongside their peers. The vote comes just hours after transgender students and advocates held a press conference in the Florida ...

Gay News

Simmons moves to gather data on how COVID-19 has harmed LGBTQ+ communities
--From a press release - SPRINGFIELD — To better determine how the COVID-19 pandemic has harmed LGBTQIA+ communities in Illinois, State Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) passed legislation out of an Illinois Senate committee Thursday that ...

Gay News

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia theme announced
--From a collective press release - LGBTQI+ networks from around the world have announced the theme for this year's International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia: "Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!" We are inspired by this very ...

Gay News

Rev. Elle Dowd of Illinois joins Planned Parenthood Clergy Advocacy Board
CHICAGO— Today, April 14, 2021, The Rev. Elle Dowd from Chicago, Illinois officially joined the Clergy Advocacy Board (CAB) of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). The CAB leads the ...

Gay News

Equality California names first AAPI executive director
Equality California and Equality California Institute announced that Managing Director Tony Hoang will lead the organization as the next Executive Director when Rick Chavez Zbur steps down at the end of this year to run for ...

Gay News

More than 45,000 trans youth put at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care
--From a Williams Institute press release - An estimated 45,100 transgender youth ages 13 and older in the U.S. are at risk of being denied gender-affirming medical care due to proposed and enacted state bans, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School ...

Gay News

Illinois first state to extend Medicaid postpartum benefits to 12 months
Gov. JB Pritzker announced that Illinois is the first state in the nation to extend full Medicaid benefits from 60 days to 12 months postpartum, following the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approval ...

Gay News

NATIONAL College items, Easter rally, mental-health study, Chuck Schumer
The NCAA LGBTQ OneTeam—a group of NCAA-trained facilitators at colleges across the country—published an open letter condemning the actions taken by 28 states across the country to introduce, pass and ...

Gay News

Study: 30% of young LGBQ people have attempted suicide in their lifetimes
--From a press release - A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds younger LGBQ adults experience greater psychological distress and suicidal behavior than older LGBQ people. Researchers examined a representative sample of LGBQ people in ...

Gay News

Andersonville Chamber of Commerce marks Earth Day with Andersonville in Bloom April 22 - 25
CHICAGO (April 7, 2021) — In celebration of Earth Day Weekend, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce (ACC) celebrates all things spring with Andersonville in Bloom, returning to the neighborhood April 22 — 25, 2021 after a ...

Gay News

New study shows discrimination, stigma, family pressure drive transgender "detransition"
--From a press release - BOSTON—A new study published in LGBT Health found that 13.1% of currently identified transgender people have detransitioned at some point in their lives, but that 82.5% of those who have detransitioned attribute their decision to at ...

Gay News

LGBTQ+ History Podcast Queer Serial launches third and final season
--From a press release - Queer Serial, the acclaimed LGBTQ+ history podcast produced and hosted by 2021 GLAAD Award nominee Devlyn Camp, returns Monday, April 12, with its final season. Season 3 picks up in 1963, as militant gay activists, taking ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.