The birth of the Uptown Tent City organization
Back in June 2015, Eric Clayton, Ryne Poelker and yours truly, Yehuda Rothschild formed what was to become the activist group Uptown Tent City (also known as UTC, Uptown Tent City Organizers and UTCO).
The three of us and our families lived within blocks of the Lawrence and Wilson viaducts.
Along with many others on a daily basis, we witnessed the suffering of people experiencing homelessness in the viaducts and nearby park areas. The abuses heaped upon our neighbors by Alderman Cappleman, the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Park District were horrific.
Our activism was 100% pure citizen-based activism, with nothing to gain except the cause itself. We were quickly joined by Jeff Littleton, Nickolas Kaplan, many members of JPUSA, many viaduct and park residents, Carol Boyd, Melissa Hernandez and others too numerous to mention (sorry).
One important characteristic of our group was that not only did it include housed and formerly homeless people, it was inclusive of the viaduct and park residents. We were all neighbors and residents of Uptown (and elsewhere as it grew), and of equal stature. We were a group of individuals. No one was paid, there were no organization bank accounts or corporate sponsorships. This is still the case.
Uptown Tent City filled a blank spot
We formed our group in great part due to the fact that no one else was championing the cause or involved with the viaducts (with the exception of Uptown Peoples Law Center and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless legal representations).
Another important facet of our organization is it is about the people experiencing homelessness, not us. Though we do nothing in anonymity, and many of us do become known members of Uptown Tent City, we strongly discourage personal stardom or doing anything for the glory…
Our first protest
With less than a week of planning and promotion, we had our first protest event ‘Tent City in OUR City!’ on Friday, June 26, 2015.
Over 100 people attended and it was clear that a whole lot of people really cared.
We formally adopted Uptown Tent City name
On July 7th, 2015, we named our group Uptown Tent City and registered the domain UptownTentCity.com.
At the same time or slightly prior, we started the Uptown Tent City Facebook page.
We later added a linked Facebook group.
We also started our twitter account @UptownTentCity and a non-public Facebook organizing only group called ‘Uptown Tent City Organizers’ which is where that moniker came from.
Our second protest
On July 8th, 2015 we started planning our 2nd protest, a sleep out.
On July 14th, 2015 we announced the Uptown Tent City Sleepout
Tent City in Uptown: A Sleep Out and Protest
August 29, 2015 – August 30, 2015
Hosted by Uptown Tent City
It was a phenomenal success, hundreds attended and thank God including Andy Thayer, who saved the day when it came time to confront the police and joined our leadership.
Advocate & do nothing to help the suffering now?
We quickly asked ourselves how could we advocate for the homeless and watch people freeze without doing anything for them like some advocates do, as 2015 turned into winter. We supplied tents and other warmth supplies as we could to the viaducts and in December 2015 sought the communities help to fill this great need.
This became an essential part of our advocacy. Unfortunately, the success also attracted organizations and individuals with less than pure motives. We did have to fight off a few grubby hands but for the most part, we have been able to maintain our preference to the high road.
The important take away is there is only one organization that does everything we do. Even adding a “)” or using our photos changes nothing, there is only one Uptown Tent City.
Thank you Uptown Tent City attorneys
It is important to thank Uptown Tent City attorneys Nickolas Kaplan, Alan Mills, Diane O’Connell, Nicole Schult, Patricia Nix Hodes, Molly Armour, Jeffrey Frank, Adele Nicholas, Susan Ritacca and Robert N. Hermes. This is another super important and differentiating facet that without, the real Uptown Tent City would not be possible.
- Educate the public about homelessness, housing and government
- Help the homeless now with tents and other survival needs
- Litigate for protection now and a better future
The rest is history on our website and Facebook page/group. If you haven’t already, please join us.