“Many people are one paycheck away from being homeless, this is horrifying…this is a fight for every Chicagoan to take seriously,” said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th).
A group of activists Tuesday called on city leaders to immediately house all homeless people in Chicago.
The group, about 30 people from the Chicago Union of the Homeless, gathered outside the Chicago Housing Authority’s downtown headquarters to pressure public officials to find permanent housing for everyone who is living on the street.
“The people are not being helped fast enough,” said Adam Gottlieb, a leader with the group.
The CHA has more than 16,000 housing units, about 2,000 of which are vacant. Activists pointed to these as a good place to start.
But according to the CHA, those vacant units are either in the process of being upgraded and not currently habitable or in the process of being filled by people who’ve been on a waitlist, sometimes for years. Preference is given to homeless families and other groups like victims of domestic abuse.
“We’re tired of being homeless, we’re tired of being out here,” said Bonnie Contreras, who is homeless. “You all care about us twice a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas…We’re not taking no for an answer.”
Her husband, Felipe Contreras, also homeless, pleaded with city leaders.
“Let’s take care of each other, man. I’ve been living out here for four years in the cold. This is a cold city,” he said.
The city’s homeless problem has been exasperated by the coronavirus pandemic, activists said.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) said it was shameful that people were left to fend for themselves and sometimes die on the street in cold weather.
“As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, as a resident of Chicago, I find it unconscionable and immoral that the city of Chicago allows people to die in the cold,” he said.
Asking homeless people to call 311 to ask for help, the alderman said, is not reasonable because many homeless people do not have access to cell phones.
“It is unacceptable,” Sigcho-Lopez said of the city’s priorities manifested through spending. “Many people are one paycheck away from being homeless, this is horrifying…this is a fight for every Chicagoan to take seriously.”