CHICAGO (CBS) — City officials, advocates for the homeless, North Side residents and the homeless met today about a pilot program designed to provide permanent housing and services to dozens of homeless people.

In particular, the city’s Department of Family and Social Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler says the city is focusing on chronically homeless who have lived in tent cities under viaducts on the North Side.

Cmsr. Butler says assessments have been done of the homeless who are most in need of help. She hopes to have housing for them by July, but she reminded the 50 or so people in a basement meeting room at Weiss Memorial Hospital that “we are literally cobbling together funds” for the program.

Cmsr. Butler also says that “success is not promising there would never be homeless in Uptown or under viaducts again.”
58-year old Donald King says he lives in the viaduct at Lawrence Avenue under Lake Shore Drive. He says he has been homeless since 2012. When asked if he would accept an apartment if one were offered to him, he said he would but that, “I’m going to have to look at it, first.”

King says it’s nice living in the viaduct although he does not like it when motorists honk their horns to disturb the homeless community there or when people shout nasty things to volunteers who often show up to feed the homeless.
55-year-old Mark also lives under the Lawrence Avenue viaduct and says being given permanent housing would help him get back on his feet again so he could get a job.

“I’d definitely take it because, in this day and age, the homeless need a hand,” Mark says.

46th Ward Ald. James Cappelman would like to see a four percent surcharge on AirBnB bookings as a dedicated way to pay for the pilot homeless housing program.

He says, “It’s not going to cure homelessness, but we cannot not move at all because there’ll be some people who’ll continue to live under the viaduct. We will continue to reach out to them.”

During the meeting, Uptown resident Jeffrey Littleton suggested the city or a private company set out portable toilets for those living under viaducts until those people are placed in their own apartments.

“You just take care of it for now, and it would do some good will. Also I added on some hand washing,” he said.