Woman Living at Hyde Park Bus Shelter Now On Hospice: Family Searches For Missing Funds
Written by Vocalo Radio on June 2, 2023
Since Karen Davenport (a mother of three and a once-time Ebony/Jet model) was hospitalized this winter, “several community members have reached out to the Hyde Park Herald seeking updates on her health, offering prayers and asking how to support her,” according to correspondent Michael Liptrot. Despite a crowdfunding campaign spearheaded former 5th Ward aldermanic candidate Jocelyn Hare, Davenport’s family alleges that support never came.
In the Hyde Park section of Chicago, just North of the construction site for the Obama Presidential Library, within walking distance of the well-heeled University of Chicago, and down the street from a bustling commercial strip, a woman found refuge day and night at a JCDecaux glass and steel CTA bus shelter. Surrounded by her possessions and wrapped in blankets on cold days, over the course of four years, Karen Davenport became as much of a fixture at that intersection as the bus shelter itself. Then, she disappeared.
Editor’s Note: The following article was originally published in the Hyde Park Herald.
In mid-January, Karen Davenport, a Hyde Park woman who had lived for several years in the bus shelter at 57th Street and Stony Island Avenue, was brought by police to the University of Chicago Medical Center following a week of below-freezing temperatures.
Due to severe frostbite in her arms and legs, all of Davenport’s limbs were amputated.
“They let us know that everyone was doing everything in their power to make sure she’s okay and trying to help her,” said Lawrence Mitchell, Davenport’s son.
After her initial hospitalization in the U. of C. emergency department, Davenport was moved to a long-term care facility on the city’s North Side, where she has remained for the past six months. But her condition has since worsened, and her family is now preparing to move her into hospice care.
“(Doctors) are telling us that at this point, no matter what they do, her body is still going to decline,” Mitchell explained. The turn in health, he said, comes after bouts with hospital-borne infections and complications from the initial surgeries have significantly weakened her immune system.
Family members have created a fundraiser to help offset the cost for Davenport’s ongoing care. They have been unable to access money raised in a February GoFundMe campaign set up by former 5th Ward aldermanic candidate Jocelyn Hare, and allege that Hare has largely ceased communicating with them and spent the funds herself.
Davenport was born and raised in Chicago alongside five siblings. As a young woman, she worked as a model and was featured in magazines like Ebony and Jet. She would later have three children and work at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a rehabilitation research hospital near the Loop.
She was evicted from her Hyde Park apartment four years ago, and lived at the bus shelter since. For those years, neighbors and community members would frequently check in on her, bringing her food and water. Since Davenport was hospitalized, several of these community members have reached out to the Herald seeking updates on Davenport’s health, offering prayers and asking how to support her.
Support that never came
In February, an online crowdfunding campaign was created by Hare, a Hyde Parker and then-5th Ward aldermanic candidate, to help offset the cost of medical bills for Davenport’s family. Over a few weeks, neighbors and supporters gave more than 160 donations totaling $12,761, well over the initial $10,000 goal.
“She felt the help around election time would make her look good, and it did,” said Devon Davenport, Karen Davenport’s other son.
In the first month of Davenport’s hospitalization, the family said, relations with Hare were cordial. She attended the funeral of Davenport’s partner, Lawrence Mitchell, Jr., who died unexpectedly in December, and sent small increments of the GoFundMe money to Mitchell for incidental costs such as transportation to make funeral arrangements.
But most of that money, the family alleges, never surfaced.
“She would feed us crumbs — $100 here, $100 there,” said Lawrence Mitchell, the son of Davenport and Mitchell, Jr. “She was playing games. (If) we didn’t want to hang out with her or do this, then she wouldn’t answer our calls or wouldn’t give us money.”
In total, Mitchell estimated, Hare sent the family $1,500 of the $12,761 raised in the GoFundMe. But as the February Election Day neared, the brothers said, Hare became distant and less responsive.
As of May 24, the GoFundMe campaign is still active.
“As of now, we haven’t had any support since we were alerted by Jocelyn’s former campaign manager,” Lawrence Mitchell said.
In early March, Osiris Khepera, Hare’s former campaign manager, reached out to the brothers to try and help them get the money for their mother.
In an email provided to the Herald, Khepera wrote to GoFundMe alleging a misappropriation of funds and asking that access to the account be granted to the family.
“Recently, without (Mitchell’s) permission or request, Jocelyn raised the (goal) of the gofundme to $115,000.00,” Khepera wrote. “She has subsequently been renting cars and staying in hotels.”
“We need access to the gofundme directly so that (Mitchell) can change over any and all account information to his own so that he can utilize those funds for their intended purposes,” he continued.
As the family attempted to get funds from the crowdfunding campaign, they allege, Hare’s support for the family turned to harassment.
In emails from late April provided to the Herald, Hare sent multiple requests for money to the family ranging from $7,000 to $15,000 dollars; the wire transfer requests were captioned“GoFundMe for Karen Davenport #extortion” and “Your Issues.”
Recently, Mitchell said, Hare also contacted Davenport’s sister’s employer at her workplace, causing her to get reprimanded.
The Herald reached out to Hare via email for comment on the family’s allegations. She did not respond. In a series of tweets from her campaign account on Friday, May 26, Hare posted screenshots of the Herald email and a post that reads “Hyde Pork herald idiots, do your self a favor n do your MF homework. Jokers… no, we still don’t have anything to say to @HydeParkHerald.”
Khepra, too, reports receiving harassment from Hare following the election. “She has reached out to me inappropriately a couple of times, but I stopped following her. I stopped paying attention to what she’s been doing. I’ve stopped speaking to her,” Khepra said.
As the Davenport family prepares for the worst, her sons tell the Herald they’re comforted by words of wisdom they recall their mother telling them growing up., that ‘life’s trials would come’ and to ‘stay strong through the storm.’
To learn more about the Davenport family’s GoFundMe campaign for Karen Davenport, visit: gofund.me/7fcbe76d
This article was written by Michael Liptrot and was
originally published in the Hyde Park Herald. Introduction by Ayana Contreras
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