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Tent City's Homeless Should Vacate Uptown Viaducts, Some Residents Say

By Mina Bloom | April 17, 2015 8:37am
 The viaducts at Lawrence Avenue and Marine Drive in Uptown.
The viaducts at Lawrence Avenue and Marine Drive in Uptown.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

UPTOWN — Signs will go up Friday instructing the homeless people living underneath Uptown viaducts to vacate the premises within seven days, according to Ald. Harry Osterman's (48th) chief of staff, Dan Luna.

"What they leave behind will be thrown away," Luna told a group of residents at a CAPS meeting Thursday night held at Margate Field House, 4921 N. Marine Dr.

Luna said the "homeless village" has grown, mainly referring to two viaducts: one at Lawrence Avenue and Marine Drive and another at Wilson Avenue and Marine Drive.

"There are shelter options that are offered that, unfortunately, they don't want," he said. "We're going to continue to work with them."

The goal, Luna said, is to get the homeless into permanent housing by sending out a team of officials from various city agencies to offer assistance.

A representative from one of those agencies, the city's department of family and support services, also attended the meeting. Joel Mitchell said his department has been "working closely with Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and Osterman to get in front of the issue with the viaducts."

"One department cannot tackle this issue alone," he said, adding that many of the homeless people living underneath the viaducts have substance abuse or mental health issues.

"It's multiple engagements," he said. "It's extremely hard to break through, but we think with the right people, we can start seeing some outcomes." 

He pointed to Thresholds, a nonprofit organization that recently received a grant from the city's department of public health to do more street outreach.

One resident said the homeless people living underneath the viaducts "don't belong there."

"I strongly object to allowing people to camp there and be called residents," he said. "These people are imposing their will on other people. They just want to live their lives the way they want to and I think it's time to get these people out."

Another resident, Mary Ellen Hanrahan, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, said "It's very important to get rid of them."

"If the [homeless] people go to the park ... [they'll] ruin the park all summer long," she said.

Mitchell said the main goal is to offer services and treatment to the homeless and get them into permanent housing. He urged residents to call the police if there is a threat to public safety.

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