UPTOWN — Ald. James Cappleman (46th) spoke out against a growing number of homeless people living underneath Uptown viaducts Wednesday, saying he believes the city could be doing more to find them proper housing.
Cappleman's comments came in response to a question from a resident at the annual State of Uptown luncheon Wednesday afternoon at Uptown Underground, 4707 N. Broadway.
The resident said the area's homeless people are preventing economic growth in the neighborhood, pointing to a time when he saw a homeless person defecating on a hill near the viaduct and saying "we can't have this and expect to see growth."
"Like you, I'm very angry about it," Cappleman responded.
Cappleman believes city departments need to do a better job of coordinating their efforts to address homelessness in the ward. In fact, he said he'd currently give Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office and city departments a "grade of a D-minus" on the issue
The alderman said while it's "commendable" that the nonprofit organization Chicago Coalition for the Homeless fought for homeless people's rights to sleep outside, he's "fighting for the right to sleep inside."
"When I first became alderman, one shelter was housing one man for close to 20 years. That's not a shelter, that has become a permanent residence," Cappleman said, adding that he has worked with the city's department of family and support services to create restrictions on how long people could stay at shelters.
Another "glaring issue," he said, is the city's lack of harm-reduction shelters, which are designed to treat substance abuse and are being used in other cities. A number of homeless people who suffer from substance abuse issues are turned away when they try to get into shelters that treat mental illness, he added.
Lastly, he pointed to the fact that it has become more expensive to build and maintain affordable housing: "We have to find ways to make affordable housing cheaper," he said.
Other residents previously have expressed frustration about homeless people currently living in tents underneath the Uptown viaducts — one at Lawrence Avenue and Marine Drive and another at Wilson Avenue and Marine Drive.
At a CAPS meeting last month, one resident said they don't "belong here" and another said "it's very important to get rid of them."
But homeless people at Lawrence Avenue and Marine Drive interviewed by DNAinfo Chicago did not have anything negative to say about the residents who would like to kick them out.
One homeless woman, Debra Shaw, who called herself an "anomaly," even sympathized with residents, saying "I fully understand why residents don't want to see this."
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