CHICAGO (CBS) — Some of those most affected by the bitter cold this week in Chicago are the homeless, and to help raise awareness of their struggles, crisis responder Andrew Holmes slept outside all night at the Lawrence Avenue viaduct in Uptown.
On any given night, there are well over 5,000 homeless people in Chicago. Many spend their nights in shelters, but others tough it out in the cold, like those sleeping in a tent city under Lake Shore Drive at Lawrence Avenue.
Among them Tuesday night was community activist Andrew Holmes, who spent the night in the tent city in the single digit temperatures to highlight the planned shutdown of a 72-bed shelter a few blocks away.
Advocates for the homeless have said the North Side Housing & Supportive Services shelter at 941 W. Lawrence Av. will close two days before Christmas, because the state has failed to come up with the money needed to keep it open in 2017, due to the ongoing budget impasse. The shelter has said $100,000 would keep its doors open.
Holmes said allowing the shelter to close could cost lives by forcing even more homeless to spend their nights out in the cold.
“Quit wasting money spending dollars everywhere when you can spend it here. I mean, it doesn’t make any sense. I was down here two years ago, and I slept with them down here in a cardboard box. Ain’t nothing changed, just more homeless people, more homeless children,” Holmes said.
Holmes said he couldn’t sleep at all Tuesday night, because it was too cold and too uncomfortable. He left the tent city early Wednesday morning, after about nine hours in the cold, but the rest of the people there spend every night in those tents. Without money from the state or city to keep the nearby shelter open, even more homeless could end up sleeping there.
“It just appalls me, in this rich city, that we have this problem. This is unconscionable,” said Rev. Jean Darling, senior minister of The Peoples Church of Chicago, which operates in the same building as the shelter.
Activists set up tents outside the shelter on Tuesday, to illustrate the lack of options for homeless who depend on the beds inside.
“We’re not even anywhere close to having enough shelter beds for every homeless Chicagoan, and yet in the face of that our city and state are cutting back,” said Ryne Poelker, an activist with Uptown Tent City Organizers.
Holmes said he hopes city and state officials take heed to the plight of the homeless and do something to keep the shelter in Uptown open.