March 1 – Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is very concerned about the Loop Alliance’s addition of private, armed guards to the streets. Panhandling is a lawful activity and targeting people who are homeless for panhandling violates the First Amendment right to free speech and the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.
We know from our work that people experiencing homelessness experience high levels of harassment from both Chicago Police and other security personnel. They often are given tickets for “aggressive panhandling,” even when they are doing nothing wrong, as a form of harassment and a way to discourage them from being in an area. Moreover, we are very concerned about whether these or any armed guards are properly trained to understand the complexities of homelessness and engage with someone that may be dealing with trauma or mental health issues.
The fact that there are people in the Loop that are experiencing homelessness should lead to a discussion to how we collectively solve homelessness. The Loop Alliance has not reached out to CCH about their decision to hire armed security guards. Had they, we would have told them we disagree with the decision, and we believe that they should put the time and resources they are spending on that response into supporting and advocating for the permanent housing people experiencing homelessness need. That is the only true solution to homelessness.
– Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director