The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Chicago Homeless Banned at O’Hare

Mar 6, 2023

On a cold February morning, as CTA Blue Line passengers exited their train at O’Hare, it was obvious something was up. At the airport turnstiles, blue and red lights from a police motorized scooter flashed as a cadre of four cops scanned the new arrivals for anyone who looked to be poor or homeless. They checked for airline tickets and work IDs. If none were presented, the poor were shooed away like a herd of stray cattle.

In the closing days of her re-election campaign, Chicago’s mayor had just publicly declared O’Hare off-limits to the city’s poor, or anyone else without “a business need” to be there. She was responding to political pressures from local rivals and Fox News critics who noted that the numbers of poor and homeless have greatly ballooned at the airport this year compared to the past. The city’s capitalist politicians, especially at election time, give phony lip service to the idea that everyone has a right to food and a roof over their head, but spend much of their time trying to sweep the ugly reality under the rug to avoid embarrassment.

O’Hare as a refuge for poor and homeless citizens is not something new. Airport facilities have been a refuge for decades. But this winter especially, the numbers of poor citizens seeking food and shelter there has risen sharply. One support center reported a 53% increase in homeless poor in 2022 over 2021. And last month, one nurse-practitioner who for years has cared for the city’s poor and leads a team of volunteers reported that they are “...way, way busier” at O’Hare. “[We’re seeing] three times what we saw before ... people we knew from all over the city. The attractions are obvious—a roof over your head, relatively warm, and restrooms.”

Pushed out of O’Hare, they now need to brave the elements and the winter cold at one of the many other more dreadful locations throughout the city, including Union Station, Lower Wacker Drive, West Madison Street, and countless underpasses.

A recent study by The Coalition for the Homeless reported that during 2020 over 65,000 poor were without proper shelter in Chicago during the year. As always, hardest hit were Black and Latino working class neighborhoods. By all indications the numbers have grown rapidly ever since.

How could it be any different? The 50 city government shelters have been bursting at the seams and turning away new admissions for years. The number of beds provided were severely reduced at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and never restored. And over the last year busloads of migrants have been arriving. Just since August of 2021 over 5000 migrant workers have arrived, greatly adding to the poor and homeless population.

The plight of the poor at O’Hare is only a small piece of a social crisis that all working people now face.