CHICAGO (WBBM) — While many Chicagoans have plenty of options to escape the heat, it’s not so easy for the homeless.
Corey Babcock is 27, and said that he has been homeless on and off for the past eight years. Most recently, he said, he parted ways with a female friend in Appleton, Wis., in April, and he drifted back to Chicago.
Babcock said he has slept on the ‘L’ to keep warm and avoid blizzards in the winter. He said summer requires a different strategy.
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He said he does not like to panhandle, but tries to have enough money to buy a “bottomless” soda at a restaurant in the morning and keep refilling it until closing time, staying in an unobtrusive corner of the eatery if at all possible.
Speaking from the comfort of a Panera Bread restaurant in the West Loop, he said that what he finds most disturbing is the insensitivity of some Chicagoans and ignorance of others when they see the homeless sprawled out on park lawns or sidewalks in extreme weather.
“People walk by, and for all they know, that guy could have had heat stroke and he could be passed out or could be dead,” Babcock said. “Nobody’s paying attention.”
He urges those who spot a homeless person in obvious trouble to use a cell phone to call the city’s 311 non-emergency number with a precise address so that Family and Support Services personnel can take them to a cooling center.
Babcock has a backpack and a shopping cart, and carries a cell phone and laptop computer with him wherever he goes. He said, despite the cart, other homeless individuals approach him as many as 15 times a day seeking spare change.
“I keep on telling them, ‘I’m sorry, but I’m in your situation, too, and I don’t give out money, but if you’re hungry, I have a bag of chips here, I have a granola bar for you, I have a bottle of water, and would you like that?'” he said.
He said that by giving others who are homeless something other than money, he knows that they cannot use it to feed a destructive habit.
Despite suggesting that others call 311, he said city personnel are often slow to respond when the homeless call requesting transport to a cooling center. He said the wait in the heat and relentless sun can often worsen a case of heat exhaustion that is progressing toward heat stroke. He suggested using Traffic Management Authority vehicles to supplement Family and Support Services vans to rescue those in need of relief from the heat.