This letter is a Call to Action for citizens who are concerned about the situation from a safety and humanitarian point of view. If you don't think this is a good situation for anyone, PLEASE copy and paste the letter (and personalize it if you'd like) and send it to your public officials. As the cover letter said, "A listing of the email addresses for the elected officials appears at the bottom of the document. We appreciate your assistance in trying to get the Emanuel administration to make priority of resolving the problem of the encampments under Lake Shore Drive."
Here is the text of the letter. Copy and paste it into your email and send it to the email addresses listed at the end of it. It only takes five minutes and if enough of us do it, the City will hear us.
The Honorable Mayor Rahm Emanuel:
I am writing concerning the encampment of homeless individuals under the Lake Shore Drive viaducts throughout Uptown, from Foster Avenue south to Irving Park Road - particularly the large populations at Lawrence and Wilson Avenues. The Lake Shore Drive exits are the gateways to my community and my home, and they provide access points to the lakefront parks.
It is unconscionable to me that these encampments are permitted to continue. I implore you to take the actions necessary to rectify this situation.
Uptown is an accommodating neighborhood. It is populated by a wide variety of people, including large numbers residing in homeless shelters, transitional housing and subsidized housing – far exceeding any other Chicago neighborhood. Indeed, Uptown is home to a full quarter of Chicago’s 2,000 emergency shelter beds:
• Peoples Church Men's Shelter
• Apna Ghar Women's Shelter
• Salvation Army Family Shelter
• Leland House Family Shelter
• Sarah's Circle Women's Shelter
• Sylvia Center Family Shelter
• Neon Street Youth Shelter
• Hannah House Family Shelter
In the US Conference of Mayors Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness, Chicago reported that for 2014 and 2015, shelters did not have to turn away either homeless individuals or homeless families because there were no beds available for them. It’s clear that the City provides numerous options for those vulnerable and in need.
I am also aware that of the many social service agencies operating in Uptown, two have significant local footprints, are very skilled at working with difficult-to-house individuals, and have received taxpayer dollars for past and pending building projects:
Heartland Alliance, an established and well-respected social service organization, accessed Lawrence Broadway TIF dollars to renovate the Leland Hotel. It is now attempting to use Low Income Housing Trust Fund dollars to acquire and renovate the Darlington Hotel. Previously, Heartland Alliance was awarded a contract to relocate homeless individuals sleeping under Lower Wacker Drive. It was a successful operation; Heartland Alliance reports that most of those formerly homeless individuals are still housed by its agency.
Sarah’s Circle, the largest homeless shelter for unaccompanied women in the City, accessed a variety of public funding sources to build its facility on North Sheridan Road; it is now planning to access public funds to build a large, women’s shelter and supportive housing development on a property immediately to the south.
These organizations are my neighbors and are skilled at moving this population into temporary and permanent housing. I believe it is reasonable that they take leadership roles within their own neighborhood - providing access to housing and supportive services for the individuals who have been camping under the viaducts.
The campsites create an unsafe environment – for pedestrians as well for those individuals living under the viaducts. A significant community problem relates to hygiene, or rather, the lack thereof.
The concentrated homeless population camped under Lake Shore Drive uses portions of the sidewalks, as well as the parklands surrounding them, as toilets. Feces, urine and the related stench create not only a hazard to the public’s health, but also to that of the homeless themselves.
Several large pieces of concrete fell from the Lawrence Avenue viaduct ceiling last year. The viaduct has not yet been rebuilt, so the risk of this occurring again and harming pedestrians and/or the homeless individuals camping below cannot and should not be ignored.
The City must stop allowing homeless individuals to occupy our public sidewalks as campsites. Ordinances regarding obstruction of public rights of way must be enforced. Public safety is at risk – my safety and that of countless others. Soon the spring youth soccer season will commence and the many charitable lakefront races will begin. Following that, the lakefront beaches will open for the summer. There will likely be large, outdoor concerts at Cricket Hill, as there have been in years past. Thousands upon thousands of people from our community and elsewhere will be attempting to access the parks via the Lake Shore Drive viaducts.
I urge you to make it a high priority within your administration to remedy these public safety and quality of life issues in Uptown.
INSERT YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS
Cc: Alderman James Cappleman, 46th Ward
Alderman Harry Osterman, 48th Ward
U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky
Illinois State Senator Heather Steans
Illinois State Representative Greg Harris
Michael Redina, Mayor’s Office – Legislative, Council & Governmental Affairs
Email addresses to copy and paste into your message:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org