By Victoria Dempsey, Loyola University summer law intern,
and Senior Counsel Laurene Heybach
Tensions have surfaced again in the Uptown neighborhood over the growing number of homeless people living under the Wilson and Lawrence Avenue viaducts.
In response to neighborhood concerns at the “State of Uptown” luncheon May 27, Chicago Ald. James Cappleman criticized the city’s lack of coordination of homeless services in the 46th Ward and the lack of affordable housing and harm-reduction shelters to address the situation.
Then, referring to the Law Project’s recent legal settlement with the city, he said that it is “commendable” that Chicago Coalition for the Homeless fought for the right of homeless persons to sleep outside, but he would “fight for the right to sleep inside.” Thus, the alderman implied that CCH has not fought for housing to help eradicate homelessness on our streets.
If you’re puzzled, you should be: Yes, Cappleman is the alderman you’ve read about who systematically reduces low-income housing in his ward in favor of a gentrification strategy. He regularly vilifies those who live on the streets, as he did at last week’s luncheon, blaming homeless people for “preventing economic growth.” Cappleman attempted to push social services for low-income people out of his ward including, most famously, the Salvation Army soup truck. Not once has he reached out to CCH to encourage assistance for the homeless, join our efforts for increased funding or to find solutions.
To know CCH is to understand our advocacy: We endeavor to protect homeless persons from the dangers and risks of the street by working to create housing opportunities and services. We also work to protect homeless persons from becoming the targets of discrimination, mistreatment, or bigoted attitudes such as Cappleman’s.
In the process of achieving the recent settlement for those living on the streets whose possessions were being taken by the city, CCH consistently advocated for housing – which all of our clients desperately want.
Indeed, it is our expectation that the city must fulfill its obligation embodied in its Plan to End Homelessness 2.0 to create sufficient housing for those who are homeless and living on the streets. The plan is not adequately funded by the city, which has more than 20,000 people in its “Central Referral System” awaiting affordable housing. It’s simply wrong to blame those on the street for the systemic lack of adequate housing.
For 35 years CCH has fought for affordable housing for Chicago’s poorest people. This includes passage of the Illinois Rental Housing Support program, which has pumped millions into the Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund, drafting key amendments to Chicago ordinances aimed at creating more affordable housing, and campaigning to stop the loss of low-cost SRO housing in Chicago, including Cappleman’s ward. CCH’s primary mission remains promoting an enforceable human right to safe, decent and affordable housing.