New city policy provides greater protection and services for homeless people living on Chicago’s streets

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) has reached a new agreement with the city of Chicago to:

(1) protect the right of homeless persons living on Lower Wacker Drive and under the Wilson Avenue viaduct at Lake Shore Drive to retain their vital possessions free from seizure and disposal by the city while ensuring the city’s right to maintain clean streets; and

(2) provide, through the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, intensive case management and assistance to homeless persons living at those locations. 

The Bryant Agreement was negotiated by the CCH Law Project, with the assistance of Paul Strauss of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. (CLCCRUL), and Matthew Piers and Claudia Flores of the law firm of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd.

Pursuant to the agreement, the city commits to respect and protect the rights of homeless persons and implement a new policy and provide intensive case management and services for homeless persons, with priority to 16 individuals identified by CCH.

Such services are to include social supports, job training, drug and alcohol treatment, and access to long-term housing. The agreement was reached after CCH raised with the city the concerns of 17 individuals living in the Lower Wacker and Wilson Viaduct areas. CCH worked with the 17 individuals, one of whom has since died, for more than one year.

“We are pleased that the focus of the city’s efforts in dealing with individuals without adequate housing will be to offer additional services to connect people with housing and services. While living on the street, individuals will not lose important personal property crucial for their survival – especially in the winter weather – such as blankets, coats, boots, shoes, clothing and medication,” said Patricia Nix-Hodes, director of the CCH Law Project.

CCH and the city agree to work together moving forward to ensure proper implementation of the new policy and, if needed, to add additional identified locations to be covered by the policy in the future.

Under the new policy, there will be a predictable notice (at least 24-hour notice) of off-street cleaning, a process which will allow homeless persons to retain vital belongings with them on the street and avoid disposal by the police, Streets & Sanitation or other city agencies. Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services will lead the city’s contact with homeless people living on the street, informing them of the new policy and providing information about housing and services.

Items that homeless persons may retain include a bedroll or sleeping bag, two coats, two pairs of shoes or boots, up to five blankets, three bags or suitcases and the content therein, but not mattresses, furniture items or carts.

In the winter months, up to five additional blankets and one additional sleeping bag may be kept.

If items are suspected to be abandoned or not permissible “portable personal possessions,” the items will be tagged by the city. Homeless persons will then be allowed seven (7) days to claim or remove those items.

The policy also allows homeless persons to anticipate when the city will clean and to identify, claim and temporarily move their belongings, when necessary. This will be done by both posted written notice and oral notice. Chicago police are expected to issue a directive on the new policy in March.