August 18, 2017
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is appalled by the city of Chicago’s decision to issue a 30-day eviction notice today to the residents of the tent encampments under the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts on Lake Shore Drive, in advance of reconstruction. This notice comes without the city providing permanent housing to the people they are evicting from the only home they have and with the premeditated intention to make it impossible for people experiencing homelessness to use the viaducts in the future for protection.
The residents of the encampments do not oppose rebuilding of the city’s infrastructure, nor do they want to live on the streets. They currently live under these viaducts because they have no other permanent housing options. The residents want the same thing anyone else does – the chance to have a stable home.
And while the city is failing to provide permanent housing options for all the people currently living under the viaducts, it has approved a design for the rebuilt structure that will make it impossible for anyone experiencing homelessness to seek shelter under the viaducts after the construction. By placing the proposed bike lanes on the sidewalks, as opposed to following best practice and placing them in the roadway, they have actively chosen to block people experiencing homelessness from the area. 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.
This issue is not about bike lanes or rebuilding roads. This issue is about how the city chooses to treat people with the most barriers and fewest resources. It is about who and what the city chooses to prioritize. While efforts have been made to assist others who have had to call the viaducts home, the city is failing in this moment to treat people who are homeless with the dignity and respect they deserve. CCH has been in regular contact with the city regarding the needs of the residents for well over a year, both through meetings and other forms of communication.
Chicago can still do the right thing. The city can allocate resources so the remaining residents have permanent supportive housing. They can adjust the design of the bike lanes so that the lanes are on the roadway and not on the sidewalk. Different choices can be made that both improve infrastructure and support the residents. We implore the city to choose a different path and not be guilty of making the lives of those having to live on the streets even more difficult.