Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown: Chicago takes low-key approach to remove homeless camp from Lower Wacker

A city official on Monday talks to a homeless man who lives in The Triangle about services that are available to him as the city slowly begins to move the encampment on Lower Wacker Drive. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

By Mark Brown, columnist

City workers moved deliberatively Monday morning to begin removing a homeless encampment from an area of Lower Wacker Drive known as The Triangle.

Unlike the police show of force that characterized last summer’s eviction of tent cities beneath two Lake Shore Drive viaducts in Uptown, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration took a low-key approach to ousting the homeless group that occupies a spot just west of Michigan Avenue.

An 8 a.m. deadline for the homeless residents to move their belongings came and went with no effort to physically move them.

It was nearly 10 a.m. before city social workers arrived to begin offering the last dozen stragglers another opportunity to accept a bed in a shelter or detox unit. They found one woman who took them up on the chance to go to detox.

Only two police officers were on the scene, and they were staying mostly on the periphery. A Salvation Army truck served chili mac and Kool-Aid.

By late morning, however, a city contractor began drilling holes in the pavement to erect fence posts — the clearest sign about the city’s intentions to make the area off limits to homeless people.

Despite the din, many homeless people lay asleep on the ground.

Many packed their belongings and moved down the street to another area of Lower Wacker. Others came and took their place.

A contingent from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless arrived early to stand watch to make sure nobody’s rights were violated but they didn’t have much to do.

The city has said it is closing the encampment for public safety reasons — both for the protection of the homeless people and for those who live and work in the area.

Advocates for the homeless say the city is just trying to move the homeless to a less visible location away from the busy roadway.