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'Bum Bait' Signs Compare Homeless Chicagoans to Rats, Anger Wicker Parkers

By Alisa Hauser | April 22, 2015 1:16pm

WICKER PARK —  The ubiquitous Streets and Sanitation Department posters warning residents about poisoned rat bait seem to have inspired an anonymous artist, whose message is offending neighbors.

"I found it completely offensive. I took it down," said Bill Healy, a 31-year-old freelance reporter, of a "Target: Bums" sign that he removed from an alley in the 1600 block of North Wolcott Avenue on Tuesday evening.

A sign mimicking rat abatement and an actual rat warning sign (DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser)

Healy said he and his boyfriend were walking back from dinner and taking a shortcut through an alley when they spotted the sign, stapled to a wooden pole.

Instead of an image of a rat, the mimicking sign shows a man lying in an alley with a rat, debris and a broken bottle, and advises people to stop "enabling" bums by giving handouts and free meals. 

Upon being notified of the sign, a spokeswoman for the city's Streets and Sanitation Department said: "The Department would always remove any offensive sign or offensive language from the public way."

A staffer in Ald. Scott Waguespack's (32nd) office was also notified of the sign but did not have a comment on the issue.

Alisa Hauser says the sign had been removed, and then returned:

Healy, who worked on an in-depth story featuring homeless Chicagoans that aired on "This American Life" earlier this month, said the tone of the sign was particularly off-putting. 

"To see something like this in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods, it shows what a disconnect there is and it's a sad state of affairs that people are taking the time to do it. It's also sad that it was put up and taken down and put up again in a short period."

On Wednesday morning, a new sign had been posted in the spot where Healy said he had recently removed one.

Wicker Park resident Alfred Mojica was walking his dog, Kane, when the sign caught his eye. He said he also found the message offensive.

"I don't think it's appropriate. How can you tell whether someone is a bum or not? It looks real, the [city] seal looks as if the city put this out," Mojica said.

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