Anyone who’s been to Uptown in the last decade is aware it has a problem. Seemingly everywhere one looks in the neighborhood just north of Wrigley, timeworn beauty is juxtaposed by contemporary scorn. Homelessness and neglect of those in need has been a staple of the area since the 50s when the area was erroneously referred to as “Hillbilly Haven” and this week marked the final days for homeless Uptown residents utilizing the underside of the viaducts at Wilson and Lawrence streets named “Tent City”. Residents there, who are currently camped out under a structure the city has referred to as one of the “most traveled structurally deficient bridges in Illinois.”
The move, which was announced with a series of orange stickers plastered to the cracking concrete pillars doing their best to hold the streets above them. The structure has been crumbling for years and residents of the makeshift site have complained in recent months of falling debris. Despite the warnings and obvious disrepair, many have little if anywhere to go, a furtherance of the city’s push to price out low-income and those unable to work. Those who call “Tent City” home will have until 7 a.m. Sept. 18 to find a new place to lay their heads, with winter quickly approaching.
Uptown, long a victim of ever-changing social circumstances, most recently saw its situation exasperated by public service closings such as the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago, a mental health facility serving more than 10,000 which closed its doors in May 2016. The impending closing of one of the city’s few remaining single-occupancy hotels as Wilson Men’s Hotel faces similar rehab efforts in the near future which puts the future of 150 men in jeopardy.
As of now, there’s no clear plan as far as where the “Tent City” residents will end up when the viaduct is officially closed for repairs next month. Department of Family and Support Services has been visiting the site weekly throughout the year to help work with those looking for housing and will continue to do so through the end of their time there.
Chicago is quickly becoming a cavernous glass enclave of the rich. It’s evidenced by the clearing of the forest south of Roosevelt Ave to make room for a 50 story tower and adjacent upscale neighborhood and the increasing number of tents and makeshift housing popping up along I-94 and throughout the city’s crevices. While Rahm works on cuts to education and Rauner keeps his deep pockets to himself, those that call this city home are preparing to brave another long winter season. In Uptown at least, the problem appears to be perpetual and ongoing. Hopefully we can find a workable solution soon.