By Mary Ann Ahern
The city of Chicago admitted Thursday cleaning out a viaduct in freezing temperatures, where the homeless had taken shelter, was a mistake.
The city threw out all of their belongings and now says the incident was “unfortunate.”
Ryan from Woodridge, just 10 years old, had brought backpacks to the homeless at the viaduct at Belmont and Kedzie–many of those gifts thrown out as garbage.
NBC 5 went back to that viaduct Thursday and spoke to a woman who has lived on the streets for more than a year.
Blanca is back at Belmont and Kedzie, where she lives under this viaduct when she’s not riding the “El” train to stay warm.
She lost all of her belongings when the city cleaned this viaduct Wednesday — even the backpacks donated by young Ryan.
“And my blanket, all my Christmas stuff… they took everything,” she said.
Chicago’s Coalition for the Homeless and Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa are critical of the city’s cleanup–when the temperatures are hovering near zero.
“I’m very upset that this is the way the city went about this, they didn’t provide my office with notification, and they didn’t go about this the right way, I think that it was a mistake,” Rosa said.
Doug Schenkelberg, executive director of the CCH, says the homeless just want housing.
“How do we provide real resources and support to people who are homeless and have to live in this situation?” he asked.
Another question posited is whether the city will continue with the viaduct cleanups or wait until it’s not quite so frigid.
“What happened yesterday was unfortunate,” Alisa Rodriguez, of the city’s Homeless Services. “We definitely want to make sure that it does not happen again like that.”
Rodriguez, who is the city’s point person for the homeless, notes while the clean up was clearly posted — when the weather turned as cold as it did adjustments should have been made.
“When it’s single digits the utmost important things to remember is the safety of these individuals and to make sure cleaning becomes secondary,” she said.
Blanca is grateful for coats left for the homeless Thursday, trying on several before she heads off to ride the “El” during the coldest hours of the evening.
The city says it will work with all of its partners in communicating how to better balance the issues of cleaning up the viaducts at the same time being aware of how cold it is outside.