Sep 18, 2017
About 40 people living in a tent city under a viaduct are being forced out by the city of Chicago to make room for bridge construction. This viaduct is in Uptown, a neighborhood near the lake on the North Side that is being gentrified – a fancy word for areas being taken over by wealthier people. The city government has designed the project to add a bike lane so that even when the work is done, the homeless will not physically be able to come back.
The city offered the residents of this tent city a spot in the Pacific Gardens Mission shelter. But many people living under the viaduct made clear they do not want to go to Pacific Gardens. That shelter is across the city from Uptown. People can’t bring their larger belongings, like tents, with them. Shelters also only accept people for 12 hours – with no guarantee of a spot the next night. Tent city residents also said they fear bed bugs, the theft of their belongings, and the destruction of the community they have created with each other which gives people a sense of security and belonging.
The Uptown Tent City Organizers launched a lawsuit to block their removal, saying that the visibility of their tents was a form of free speech. But a federal judge ruled that they were trying “to fit the square peg of the issue [of homelessness] into the round hole” of the law. Alan Mills, one of the lawyers representing the Uptown Tent City Organizers agreed, saying “the Supreme Court so far ... has not held there is a constitutional right to housing.”
Uptown Tent City Organizers point out that many of these same homeless people had already been driven out of an earlier tent city, cleared to make way for development of an upscale apartment and retail complex. They protested on Lake Shore Drive demanding “Give us a Home or Leave us Alone!” and “Homes Not Shelters.” But the city’s only response was to arrest a number of them for blocking traffic.
According to homeless rights groups, 80,000 people in Chicago struggle with homelessness. But to the people who run Chicago, the only problem is that the homeless get in the way of development. And the only solution they provide is to sweep the homeless out of sight of the wealthy people that the politicians serve.