UPTOWN — Lawyers advocating on behalf of the residents of Uptown's Tent City filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago last week.
Attorneys from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Uptown People's Law Center and Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLP argue the renovations at Lawrence and Wilson Avenues viaducts violates the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights because it criminalizes homelessness, according to a press release from the groups.
“The city’s insistence on elevating bicycles over people who are homeless is exactly the sort of discrimination the Homeless Bill of Rights is intended to prevent,” said Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center.
The plaintiffs are asking for an emergency order from the Cook County Circuit Court to provide housing for the residents or to change the design before beginning construction, the press release said.
“The city had the option of adding the bike lanes without reducing the width of the sidewalks, but consciously chose not to take that option. We believe this decision is intentional and the city wants to simply remove people experiencing homelessness from the line of sight of other residents without providing any permanent support,” said Doug Schenkelberg, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
In a previous statement, the city's Department of Family and Support Services officials said that the city will work with the homeless and their advocates to ensure all Chicagoans have a place to live.
The department gave residents three shelters to go to once the viaduct work begins: Northside Housing and Support Services, 941 W. Lawrence Ave.; Cornerstone Community Outreach, 4628 N. Clifton Ave., which has separate North Side facilities for men and women; and Pacific Garden Mission, 1458 S. Canal St.
The new lawsuit is the second legal battle housing advocates are pursuing against the city. Housing advocates have filed an injunction in federal court to stop the eviction of the tent city residents who live under viaducts, the city aims to repair.
The initial lawsuit from Uptown tent city organizers asks for the homeless to be able to return to the public area in front of the former Graeme Stewart School, where they were pushed out of in September of 2016.