Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tribune and DNAinfo Look at Homelessness in Large Vacant Lots in the South Loop

Two local news sites had separate pieces taking a look at the homeless encampments in Chicago.

Some of the large swaths of lands in the South Loop provide ideal areas (via ChicagoTribune):
A diverse community lives in the South Loop — with riverfront property just blocks from glitzy shopping districts. The residents know their neighbors, and they look out for one another.
This might sound like an idyllic place to live. But I am describing a homeless encampment, one of several where scores of people survive in tents, under bridges, in makeshift shacks and in concrete pipes, even in the dead of winter. Where violence, theft, drug abuse and disease are also a part of daily life.
For six months photojournalist Lloyd DeGrane and I have visited with the residents of these encampments in a swath of open land south of Roosevelt Road and on the banks of the Chicago River farther north, as well as below highway underpasses in the Pilsen neighborhood and under viaducts on the North Side lakefront.
Our work is part of the Social Justice News Nexus (www.sjnnchicago.org) at the Medill journalism school at Northwestern University, a fellowship program for in-depth reporting on a suite of topics — drug policy and treatment, mental health and housing — that intersect in the homeless encampments of Chicago.

The Tribune piece includes 10 photos with interesting stories about some of the people who reside in the huge vacant piece of land south of Roosevelt and east of the Chicago River:

Kent of Chinatown
Kent, seen here on Nov. 21, 2015, says he has lived in the fields north of Chinatown for 18 years. He cooks over a fire, sings Chinese ballads with homeless Mexican men and heads into Chinatown to go to church or the library. He knows everyone in these encampments north of 18th Street and east of the Chicago River. Many consider him a father figure.

DNAinfo is the other site who had an article about the area.  Although it isn't as altruistic as the Tribune article, it does provide a quick look at this shifting dynamic as more developments come to the Sloop (via DNAinfo):
A big development has displaced Downtown's "tent city," but some of the homeless living there have moved just south to a tract of land once owned by disgraced developer Tony Rezko.  
A handful of tents have sprouted this month at the riverfront site just south of Roosevelt Road after a developer cleared out an old encampment near the Old Main Post Office. The new, smaller tent city is farther away from the Loop than the old one, but also quieter, residents say.
(Hat tip:  ND & KD!)

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