Disappointed by news coverage of a recent city ‘cleanup

CCH Legal Intern Ezra Lintner recently submitted the following letter to the editor to the Chicago Tribune, responding to its coverage. 

Legal staff from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless were onsite February 10 when city of Chicago crews bulldozed the Tent City located near the Dan Ryan Expressway at Roosevelt Road and South DesPlaines.

The conditions that our homeless neighbors living near the Roosevelt exit experience are inhumane: They are living in a society that cannot (or will not) provide them adequate shelter, healthcare, and social services. As a result, they are forced to live in destitute conditions. No human being wants to live in the conditions that we have left our neighbors to – mud, trash pile up, and lack of shelter from the elements.

Cleaning an area inhabited by people in is necessary, as we believe the quotes from Tent City community members in your coverage show. In contrast, waiting a year to clean, and then bringing dozens of city workers and bulldozers to conduct such a cleaning is not necessary.

During our monitoring, we assisted homeless residents distressed that city crews were hauling off their tents and many of their possessions. We helped advocate for one man who had to insist that city crews not confiscate his tent with a bulldozer.

We were deeply disappointed that the Chicago Tribune covered the Monday morning “cleanup” by quoting just one resident who said he supported it. In the course of our time at the Tent City, we spoke with numerous other residents who told us they were scared about losing their tents and possessions in the sub-freezing winter weather. Moreover, we personally witnessed city workers berate residents who tried to salvage their things.

Instead of waiting a year to clean the area, the city should provide portable toilets and dumpsters to help residents keep the area clean.

Bulldozing was unnecessarily destructive, as are most of the Tent City cleanings we’ve monitored. We are saddened but not surprised that it took the presence of two attorneys, a legal intern, and a street organizer to prevent further mistreatment of some of our homeless neighbors by the city of Chicago.