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City Displaces Homeless Uptown Residents To Move Forward With Construction

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 18, 2017 8:01PM

Tents some homeless residents of Uptown were living in set up along a nearby parkway after they were forced to move from under viaducts. Photo courtesy Alan Mills, Uptown Peoples Law Center.

Some of the Chicago’s homeless in Uptown were once again displaced by the city Monday morning, after officials told members of the community they had to pack their tents and belongings and move from a parkway to make way for a construction project.

Homeless members of the community were first forced out from living under viaducts under Lake Shore Drive on Wilson and Lawrence after a federal judge ruled Friday that the city could move forward with construction plans, the Chicago Tribune reports. Monday morning, work crews and the Chicago Police were seen going from tent to tent telling residents they had to move, and some belongings including food, bedding, and blankets were thrown into garbage trucks.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, resident Maggie Gruzlewski was told by the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services she needed to pack her things and would be taken to a shelter, but she has issues with them.

“They have bed bugs. I have sleeping problems,” Gruzlewski said. “I can’t sleep with so many people in one room, and I don’t want to leave my boyfriend. We’re together 10 years.” Gruzlewski also told the Tribune she had her pocket picked before at a shelter.

A representative from DFSS said the City was making efforts to connect the residents with support services. In a statement given to ABC7, DFSS wrote:
“The City of Chicago works with a community of partners toward the goal of ensuring all Chicagoans have a place to call home. The City strives to treat homeless residents with respect and to connect them with the programs and services they need to move from crisis to stability and will continue to do so during the construction of the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts. Homelessness is a complex issue for those individuals dealing with a web of challenging social, economic and health-related circumstances. Because of this, those experiencing homelessness often refuse options for shelter and services, and choose to remain on the street.”

Residents displaced by the city however, don’t feel they’ve been treated well or given many options to find stability.

"We can turn around and take a children's hospital, tear it down and build up a complex for luxurious apartments, but we can't take care of people that need a little help?" resident Carol Aldape told ABC7. "Shelters are not safe, they are not a community of loving people. They're survivors that think they have to grab and get what they can get. I'd rather be in the streets."

Tom Gordon, another resident called the move by the City a "betrayal," and slammed both Alderman James Cappelman and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“I’ve lived in Uptown for years and I’m here because I was evicted from an SRO (single room occupancy building)," said Gordon in a statement to Chicagoist. "The homeless are not going away -- and for Rahm Emanuel and James Cappleman to not even show up for this, but to send [the Chicago Police Department] to kick us out, is sickening.”

ONE Northside, one of several community groups that have been working with the residents, say that given the closure of SRO's, rising rents, and incoming luxury high rises that have little room for affordable housing, homelessness in the area will be on the rise.

“There is a dire need for real affordable housing in Uptown and across the North Side,” said Curtis Smith, ONE Northside Board President, in an email to Chicagoist. “Rising rents, the closure of single room occupancy buildings, and new developments without enough affordable housing will only create more homelessness. With all of these forces in play, long time Uptown residents like those living in Uptown Tent City truly have nowhere to go. We need real vision and public investment in this vital resource.”