Louis “Abdul” Jones and other homeless occupants of two tent encampments moved their belongings to a nearby parkway Sunday in hopes of avoiding a forced city eviction. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times
Occupants of two homeless encampments under Lake Shore Drive relocated their tents Sunday afternoon in hopes of outmaneuvering the city’s plans to evict them.
About 20 of the tents that have been located beneath the viaducts were moved just west to a thin strip of parkway between the sidewalk and Wilson Avenue.
Advocates for the homeless argued they should be allowed to legally occupy that piece of public property, just as they did two years ago during an overnight protest that became the genesis of the Tent City communities.
“If we can’t live there, we’ll live here,” said Louis “Abdul” Jones, a leader of the homeless group that has occupied the viaducts.
City officials are bound to have other ideas given the perilous proximity to the roadway. Whether the new location would survive even until dawn was anybody’s guess.
Both a state and federal judge have refused to block the city’s order to vacate the viaducts by 7 a.m. Monday to allow for construction work to begin to repair the crumbling structures.
Although many of the homeless people, including Jones, have secured housing in recent days with the city’s help, an estimated 25 individuals faced Monday’s deadline with no place to go other than the city’s offer to take them to Pacific Garden Mission, which is not a popular place with most homeless people I have met.
Among those still without a plan was Carol Aldape, the 68-year-old grandmother I told you about a few weeks ago.
Aldape, who has been living out here in a tent since losing an apartment on Marine Drive in May, joined her neighbors in moving down the street.
Aldape’s particular complication is finding a place to live that will accept both her and her two dogs, Bella and Chief.
She was using her newly repaired motorized scooter to give the dogs a “walk” when I interrupted Sunday.
Aldape said the city has offered to put her in an assisted living facility, but she was not satisfied with the arrangement for her pets.
“They want me to give up the dogs, and I’m not going to do it,” she told me firmly.
But Aldape knows she can’t hold out much longer.
“I have to get in somewhere before the winter. I can’t take the cold,” she said.
Some of those still left under the viaducts already have a promise of housing but were waiting for the last minute to move.
“I like it out here,” said Steve Arthurs, who admitted he had been procrastinating. “I couldn’t push it off any longer. It’s time.”
Why does he prefer the street?
“I get fed better. I like the freedom. I feel very confined by an apartment, the rules,” he said.
Sitting outside Arthurs’ tent beneath the Lawrence viaduct was his friend Donald King, who was one of the first to obtain an apartment through the city’s pilot project for the viaduct homeless.
But even after a year, he returns regularly to the viaducts to visit.
“There’s a certain survival bond that’s formed,” Arthurs suggested.
While we talked, many residents of the nearby Uptown neighborhood walked intentionally in the street on their way to and from the Lakefront to avoid the homeless people on the sidewalk.
But as one young athletic couple came past on the sidewalk, Arthurs called out to them: “Looking good, guys. Looking good.”
“They’re training for the marathon,” Arthurs explained.
As afternoon turned to evening with a threat of rain and possible police action, the strain began to show as tempers flared in the close confinement of the new setup.
“A lot of people are going to get left behind. Right now, I know everybody is feeling it,” Jones said.
“This is our last ditch effort,” he said.
By morning, the homeless people may be gone from under the viaducts. Just keep in mind: that doesn’t mean they’re gone.