CHICAGO (CBS) — Advocates for the homeless and the homeless themselves have demanded the city and state find money to keep a shelter in the Uptown neighborhood open or replace the 72 beds that will be lost when it closes next week.
“We’re at a scene of singular Chicago political failure today, a failure at all levels of political leadership,” said activist Andy Thayer, speaking outside the North Side Housing & Supportive Services shelter at 941 W. Lawrence Av. “We demand that the homeless in Uptown not freeze to death.”
Thayer said the shelter is set to close on Dec. 23, because the state has failed to come up with the money needed to keep it open in 2017, due to the ongoing budget impasse.
“Why can the city find millions to hold a celebration for the Cubs, but can’t find a few thousand more for sheltering these homeless men?” said Rev. Jean Darling, senior minister of The Peoples Church of Chicago, which operates in the same building.
Activists set up tents outside the shelter on Tuesday, to illustrate the lack of options for homeless who depend on the beds inside.
Thayer said, if the shelter is allowed to close, the viaducts under Lake Shore Drive will become even more crowded with homeless people who have set up tent cities there.
“You will see every space underneath these viaducts underneath Lake Shore Drive filled with tents of homeless people who don’t have any other place to go, because shelters like this are typically filled up on many warm nights, let alone the kind of nights we’re going to be seeing in the next few days,” he said. “We are appealing today for a one-to-one replacement for every single bed – the 72 beds – that are going to be lost at this shelter. We demand that the homeless in Uptown not freeze to death.”
Maria Murray, who sleeps in a tent under the Lawrence Avenue viaduct with her husband, Joe, said, thankfully, she and her husband are in good health.
“But everybody under that viaduct is not. People are freezing,” she said.
Homeless who sleep in tents under Lake Shore Drive viaducts also recently have been fighting with the city over biweekly cleanings that force them to remove their belongings. They have said the cleanings are a form of harassment.
The shelter said $100,000 would keep its doors open.