Community activists challenge Chicago’s latest attempt to intimidate homeless people in the Uptown neighborhood
Activists are denouncing the City of Chicago’s latest threatening moves against the city’s homeless population ahead of a sweep scheduled for today, Friday, Sept. 16.
Police and Department of Family Support Services (DFSS) personnel blanketed Uptown’s homeless encampments late last week with notices threatening to destroy their tents and other possessions needed to survive the oncoming winter. While DFSS Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler has since verbally withdrawn some of the worst threatened measures, activists say that isn’t good enough.
“This city has broken so many promises about housing the homeless underneath Lake Shore Drive, replacing torn down CHA housing, and ending homelessness in general that verbal assurances aren’t good enough,” said Ryne Poelker, a homeless advocate and activist with North Side Action for Justice.
“Being homeless is stressful enough, especially when combined with mental health issues that many homeless people have. It is barbaric for the city to add to that anxiety and fear by illegally threatening to force them out and destroy their possessions. This is the exact opposite of the kinds of help our homeless neighbors need.”
The destruction of homeless people’s possessions has been deemed unconstitutional and illegal numerous times  by both federal and local courts. Currently the City is fighting another probably futile court suit over the same issue, wasting taxpayer dollars that would better be invested in affordable housing rather than attorneys and court penalties.
To counter the City threats, activists have posted their own notices underneath the Lake Shore Drive viaducts inhabited by the homeless, informing them of their rights, noting that the City’s threatened actions are illegal, and promising heightened monitoring of the City’s actions Friday morning, including filming, particularly during its cleaning scheduled to begin at 10 am or later that day.
The City’s threat to destroy homeless people’s possessions comes just as the mayor’s office made great hay over a recent report claiming a 13% decrease in the city’s homeless population over last year. As one activist said of the much-derided report, “53 people experiencing homelessness in the 46th Ward? Holy shmoly, there are more than that in just 1 shelter or 2 viaducts…”
Groups involved in the effort to counter the City’s threat of destroying homeless people’s possessions on Friday include North Side Action for Justice, No TIF for the Rich, Uptown Tent City Organizers, and the Gay Liberation Network.