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Neighbors Want Homeless Removed From Near LSD, Write Rahm for Help

By Josh McGhee | March 17, 2016 8:49am | Updated on March 18, 2016 9:34am
 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 — Uptown residents have begun circulating a letter urging Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take action to remove the homeless camps from the viaducts near Lake Shore Drive, commonly called Tent City.

The letter calls for Emanuel to make the issue a top priority, citing public safety and quality-of-life issues for residents, along with concerns about the personal hygiene and safety of the homeless themselves.

"It is unconscionable to me that these encampments are permitted to continue. I implore you to take the actions necessary to rectify this situation," reads the letter, which originally was posted to the Beacon Block Club Facebook group, a neighborhood organization representing a four-block stretch of Beacon Street between Lawrence and Montrose avenues.

The letter-writing campaign is the latest, and possibly a last-ditch effort from some Uptown residents, many of whom have been pushing back against homeless encampments in the neighborhood for years.

The letter was later posted on neighborhood blog Uptown Update with a note urging residents who don't think the current scenario is a "good situation for anyone" to "PLEASE copy and paste the letter (and personalize it if you'd like) and send it to your public officials."

"If enough of us do it, the City will hear us," the letter states.

RELATED: Chicago Homeless Rules: 4 Shoes, 2 Coats, 5 Blankets And No Potted Plants

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) has made similar comments while pushing for the approval of a $125 million development slated for the Clarendon/Montrose TIF District.

"Uptown currently has 4,470 units of affordable housing. No other community area comes close to the amount of affordable housing Uptown already has," Cappleman said before the city's Community Development Commission approved the development in January.

At the beginning of 2015, the Department of Family Support Services conducted an annual survey and discovered the homeless population in Chicago had risen by about 8 percent. About 6,786 people are homeless in Chicago and about 2,055 are unsheltered, the survey said.

According to the survey, about 57 percent of the sheltered were men. But when it comes to the unsheltered, those numbers jump to about 87 percent men, the survey said.

Uptown is home of a quarter of the city's emergency beds, the letter from residents recounts: The letter includes a list of shelters around the neighborhood, including one men's shelter, two women's shelters, four family shelters and a youth shelter.

In November, Sandy Ramsey, executive director of Cornerstone Community Outreach, said the gender divide in support services is a major problem.

"There's no place for men," Ramsey said. "There's never going to be enough room. We'll have space for single women. There's just not enough room for men."

The resident letter also expresses concernt about potential health risks for the neighborhood.

"A significant community problem relates to hygiene, or rather, the lack thereof. The concentrated homeless population camped under Lake Shore Drive uses portions of the sidewalks, as well as the parklands surrounding them, as toilets. Feces, urine and the related stench create not only a hazard to the public’s health, but also to that of the homeless themselves," the letter said.

Similar points were raised to Lincoln Police District Cmdr. Sean Loughran and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) at a community meeting in early March. The issue hasn't "gone unnoticed by my office or Ald. [James] Cappleman (46th)," but is also an issue that requires various portions of the community to work together, said Osterman, though it did little to calm community members.

"The city of Chicago has not done a good enough job in dealing with the homeless in our community and the homeless that are in the encampments. We’re trying to begin to work in a more positive ways with the advocates, coalition for the homeless and the city of Chicago and it’s many agencies to try to find housing and care and support services for those people that are living under the viaducts," Osterman said at the meeting.

Soon, youth soccer seasons, lakefront races and beach season will begin along with concerts at Cricket Hill, the letter continues, urging officials that "the city must stop allowing homeless individuals to occupy our public sidewalks as campsites. Ordinances regarding obstruction of public rights of way must be enforced" because public safety is at risk.

Last summer, the homeless packed their "personal portable possessions" into garbage bags and were moved from the viaducts to shelters before a Mumford and Sons concert.

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