WBBM Newsradio: Let homeless stay at Lower Wacker’s ‘The Triangle,’ advocates say

By Mike Krauser

The homeless and their advocates are demanding that the city have a change of heart and not evict people from an area of Lower Wacker Drive known as “The Triangle.”

City officials told the homeless living in the stretch of Lower Wacker near Wabash Avenue they had to be out by Monday due to upcoming construction. But advocates and the homeless themselves said they have little other recourse.

Listen to WBBM Newsradio report here

Amid the stench of urine and the noise of delivery trucks, a man who was evicted from the Lake Shore Drive viaducts who now has a place to stay said the city is being inhumane.

“I’m one of these people. I’ve slept on that ground,” he said. “The city is obligated to help us. It’s about human lives. They may not be as smart as most. They may not be as clean as most.”

Diane O’Connell is an attorney with the Chicago Coalition of the Homeless.

“The city’s response to homelessness is to criminalize, barricade and exclude vulnerable people.”

She noted that for years the city has been kicking the homeless out of fences they seek shelter and erecting places to keep them out.

WLS-AM: City wants to evict Lower Wacker encampment

By Bill Cameron

At City Hall, there’s another homeless controversy brewing.

Too much crime around a homeless encampment on Lower Wacker at Wabash say the police. So City Hall wants the homeless out by Monday so they can fence off a triangle of the area.

At the scene, Lewis Jones said the city gave him housing when he was evicted from a north side homeless encampment and the city should do the same for those in the triangle.

“The city is obligated to help us. All they have to do is what they did with us. It’s about human lives. They may not be as smart as most, or as clean as most, but they deserve the same chance as I got.”

Link to radio report

City Hall says it’s been conducting homeless outreach for individuals in the Lower Wacker triangle and will continue working to help connect them with the resources they need.

Media Advisory: CCH press conference on Lower Wacker eviction

On June 1, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) provided notice to the homeless residents of Lower Wacker that they must vacate “the Triangle” on June 11. The notice states that all people must vacate the area and remove all of their property, or it will be subject to disposal by the city. An email from a nearby building management company indicates that the purpose of the construction is to block homeless people from sleeping there.

The city’s decision to put up barricades around the Triangle comes on the heels of a recent street sweep in the Triangle, where on May 15 city workers seized homeless people’s property and forced them to move in a manner that violated the city’s own street cleaning policy, which it adopted pursuant to a settlement agreement reached with Lower Wacker residents who were represented by CCH attorneys.

Continue reading Media Advisory: CCH press conference on Lower Wacker eviction

ABC-7: Homeless residents prepare to leave ‘the Triangle’ ahead of construction work

By Evelyn Holmes

The City of Chicago’s plan to move the homeless population of Lower Wacker Drive under Wabash Avenue known as “the Triangle” is underway.

Those living in the area must leave by Monday, when the city will begin work there.

The city plans to fence in the area to prevent homeless people from returning.

“We do our best to engage homeless individuals with resources and services,” said DFSS Deputy Commissioner Joel Mitchell.

The Chicago Department of Transportation posted notices that the space will be closed for construction between June 11 and June 22.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless objects to the decision, as they did when a tent city in Uptown was dismantled by the city.

“The city’s response to homelessness again and again, is to criminalize, exclude and punish vulnerable people,” said Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Staff Attorney Diane O’Connell.

LINK to ABC-7 report here

City officials defended the fencing as a necessary safety precaution.

“CPD has been working to address recent criminal incidents including, narcotics dealing, robberies, street racing and prostitution that has been taking place in and around the area,” said CPD Spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi via email.

Many Triangle residents said they stay in the area because they have nowhere else to go.

Charles Hunter, 34, is among the dozens of homeless men and women who call the Triangle home. He has lived in the camp for three years.

Hunter said that when the time comes, he’ll just leave.

“This is not the only part of Lower Wacker where people house themselves,” Hunter said.

However, Pacific Garden Mission representatives said they have 1,000 beds available.

Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown: Question from Lower Wacker’s rousted homeless – ‘Where are the people gonna go?’

By Mark Brown, columnist

Residents of a homeless encampment on Lower Wacker Drive known as the Triangle have been informed they must vacate the site while the city fences it off to prevent their return.

The camp, located beneath Wabash Avenue across the river from Trump Tower, is one of the most visible homeless gatherings in the city with thousands of motorists passing by daily.

It’s also currently one of the Chicago’s largest homeless camps with as many as 45 people sleeping there at night.

Notices posted Friday by the Chicago Department of Transportation say the site will be closed for construction beginning June 11 at 8 a.m.

“They’re serious this time,” said a homeless man on a Trek bicycle who identified himself as Thomas Johnson, 32.

Johnson, who said he has been staying in the Triangle since he was released from prison six months ago, was referring to the occasional cleanings or sweeps during which the homeless people are forced to relocate temporarily.

This time, though, fencing will be erected similar to wrought iron barriers that were added on Lower Wacker by Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration to block out the homeless and keep them from returning.

“Where are the people gonna go that’s right here?” asked Johnson.

Many of the homeless residents of an area of Lower Wacker Drive known as the Triangle were still asleep Tuesday morning when the city sent in a team of social workers to discuss plans to remove them. Many others scattered temporarily. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Many of the homeless residents of an area of Lower Wacker Drive known
as the Triangle were still asleep Tuesday morning when the city sent
in a team of social workers to discuss plans to remove them. Many
others scattered temporarily. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

It’s also currently one of the Chicago’s largest homeless camps with as many as 45 people sleeping there at night.

Johnson knows there is no good answer to that question other than that everyone will do what they have to do to survive, which basically will result in moving the problem to another location.

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is planning to protest the city’s decision.

“We believe in homes, not fences. We don’t think it’s an appropriate way to deal with homelessness,” said Diane O’Connell, a lawyer for the coalition.

A CDOT spokeswoman said the department had been asked to install fencing as a safety measure “due to unlawful activities that frequently occur in that area.”

Many of the homeless residents of an area of Lower Wacker Drive known as the Triangle were still asleep Tuesday morning when the city sent in a team of social workers to discuss plans to remove them. Many others scattered temporarily. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Many of the homeless residents of an area of Lower Wacker Drive known
as the Triangle were still asleep Tuesday morning when the city sent
in a team of social workers to discuss plans to remove them. Many
others scattered temporarily. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said police are concerned about the safety of the homeless people as well as others who live and work in the area.

An array of city social workers were on the scene Tuesday morning to try to connect the homeless people with services and offer to place them in a homeless shelter. But they weren’t getting a friendly reception.

The Triangle is known to harbor a tougher crowd than some other homeless spots. It sometimes appears to function as an open-air drug market, although it’s not always clear who really lives there and who is just passing through.

But most of the homeless people I met there Tuesday morning were non-threatening. They described being on the street for the usual reasons — joblessness, substance abuse, criminal records and combinations thereof.

Rhiannon Gaither, 38, said she has been homeless in the city for four years, even though during most of that time she has worked as a waitress on Michigan Avenue. She lost the job in February.

I asked her why she was out here.

“Heroin,” she said matter-of-factly.

I thanked her for the direct answer, most people in her situation choosing to be more vague.

Gaither said she picked the Triangle over other homeless spots downtown because she has friends there, it’s warmer than other locations, and maybe most important, she’s never seen any rats.

The Triangle was created two decades ago when the city reconfigured Lower Wacker, leaving a triangular shaped area bounded by concrete barriers where Lower South Water Street splits off from Lower Wacker. Unlike most other areas on Lower Wacker, no fencing was erected.

Chris Carter lives in a homeless encampment on Lower Wacker Dr. known as The Triangle. The city plans to evict the people staying there and to erect fencing to keep them from from returning. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Chris Carter lives in a homeless encampment on Lower Wacker Dr. known as The Triangle. The city plans to evict the people staying
there and to erect fencing to keep them from from returning. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Homeless people quickly took advantage, even though it means sleeping alongside the deafening roar of vehicle traffic, and whoever else shows up.

Chris Carter, 50, who grew up in the projects near Comiskey Park, said he stays in the Triangle because “I don’t want to be a burden on anybody else, and I don’t have a place to go.”

Carter said he’ll just move down the street if evicted from the Triangle, but wishes he could get his own apartment like some of his formerly homeless friends.

“If I could get in a situation like that, I could do better,” Carter said.

There is a shortage of situations like that.

Illinois enacts state budget funding homeless programs

Illinois General Assembly has concluded its 2018 legislative session. In its budget advocacy, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless organizers brought 220 leaders and students to Springfield for 10 lobby days.

The budget bill, Senate Bill 108, funds homeless and housing services during FY19, which will begin July 1. Despite $44 million in cuts to other human services line items, the homeless youth programs received a $500,000 increase, to $6 million, while funds for emergency and transitional housing gained $1 million, to $10.3 million. Funding for homelessness prevention grants and supportive housing line items remained the same from last year’s budget package. Continue reading Illinois enacts state budget funding homeless programs

Kudos! Reentry’s Fair Access to Employment (FATE) bill passes, goes to the governor

Headed to the Governor! With a final Illinois Senate vote Wednesday, the General Assembly passed House Bill 5341, the Fair Access to Employment (FATE) bill.

RROCI partners celebrate passing the FATE bill, including (fourth from left) Mercedes González, Glenn Brown, State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, and Ali Simmons.

The FATE bill would bar judges from considering an individual’s fines, fees, or outstanding financial obligations when reviewing a petition to seal their criminal record. It does not eliminate the debt, but would stop judges from refusing to seal a record until all fines or fees are paid.

The issue arose after people sought to seal their records, as allowed under 2017 legislation (HB2373). The record-sealing measure was advocated by the CCH Reentry Project and its partners in the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI) — Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance. Continue reading Kudos! Reentry’s Fair Access to Employment (FATE) bill passes, goes to the governor

CCH says goodbye to Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez

Rachel Ramirez, a senior organizer, is leaving CCH to pursue a Ph.D in management and organizations, and in sociology, at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She plans to research community organizing as a model of organizational leadership.

We asked Rachel to reflect on her six years of organizing people who experience homelessness.

“Let me say from experience, the women being held didn’t learn, gain, or accomplish ANYTHING!”

Glenda Sykes speaking before the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013.

These were one of my grassroots leader’s words, assessing what women in prostitution got out of their incarceration for what was then a felony sentence in Illinois. She said them as part of her testimony before the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013, with an emphatic tone that was deadly serious and painfully ironic, eyes glowing, voice steady, wearing a yellow CCH T-shirt. She also said them privately to me 20 or 30 times over the phone, in my office, in Dunkin Donuts, on the Amtrak train down to Springfield, as we worked together over many hours to hone her 3-minute testimony. Her words were key to passing SB1872, which “de-felonized” (her term) prostitution in Illinois. Continue reading CCH says goodbye to Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez

Amended complaint alleges discrimination against homeless people in the Uptown neighborhood

City of Chicago endangering cyclists, violating Bill of Rights for the Homeless

New bike lakes under Lake Shore Drive solely to discriminate against homeless people in Uptown, attorneys allege

Today, an amended complaint was filed alleging discrimination against homeless people in the Uptown neighborhood by the city of Chicago.

Lawyers from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Uptown People’s Law Center, and Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLP filed the complaint on behalf of the homeless residents of Uptown who took shelter under the viaducts before the construction. The encampment was destroyed by police in September to make way for bridge repair.

This week, the city of Chicago painted bike lanes on the sidewalk under the Lake Shore Drive overpasses on Wilson and Lawrence Avenues. Putting bike lanes on sidewalks is against the city of Chicago’s own policies and is known to be dangerous for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. The lawyers allege the city is doing this specifically to prevent homeless people from taking shelter under the viaducts, which is discriminatory and in violation of the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless.

Continue reading Amended complaint alleges discrimination against homeless people in the Uptown neighborhood

Youth Futures presented as a model at the Equal Justice Conference

CCH’s Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic was presented as a model during the recent Equal Justice Conference in San Diego. The national conference is sponsored by the American Bar Association and the Public Service and National Legal Aid & Defense Association.

Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes discussed the CCH legal clinic that represents more than 400 homeless and unaccompanied youths a year. She was among the presenters for a May 11 panel on “Using Behavioral and Social Sciences as a Next Step to Improving Legal Services.”

From left, Joseph Sullivan, Adam Murray, Patricia Nix-Hodes, and Sophie Bryan

Other panelists included Adam Murray, executive director of the Inner City Law Center in Los Angeles; Sophie Bryan, executive director of Philadelphia VIP; and Joseph Sullivan, counsel and director of pro bono programs at Pepper Hamilton LLP in Philadelphia. Continue reading Youth Futures presented as a model at the Equal Justice Conference