One Scoop or Two?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The rest is history on our website and Facebook page/group. If you haven’t already, please join us.
It will be at 10 AM, Thursday, Sept 14 in Courtroom 1843, 219 S. Dearborn.
That said, please tell everyone you can to be there NO LATER THAN 9:45 AM, as you will need to go through a metal detector in the lobby. You will also need picture id.
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD AND STRONGLY ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO BE THERE!!
Below is the text of the news release we just sent out which give more info about what will be happening:
Proposed injunction demands that the City either permanently house the homeless or allow them to have tents in a location with similar visibility and security
CHICAGO, 9/8/17 – This afternoon a federal court judge set a 10 am, Thursday, September 14 hearing to determine the fate of an injunction brought by activists aiming to stop a threatened September 18th eviction of homeless people living underneath Lake Shore Drive bridge viaducts in the city’s Uptown neighborhood.
The hearing will be held in Judge Sidney Schenkier’s courtroom number 1843 at the US District Courthouse for the Northern District of Illinois, 219 S. Dearborn Street.
The motion for the injunction is part of a suit against the City for failing to allow homeless people to congregate in another area while Lake Shore Drive viaducts are reconstructed – the pedestrian mall in front of the shuttered Stewart School in the 4500 block of N. Kenmore. On September 26, 2016, a private contractor working in coordination with about a dozen Chicago Police fenced off the pedestrian mall under the guise of a phony construction permit, evicting homeless people from the area. No construction occurred and City Attorney Kelley A. Gandurski later admitted that the erection of the fence was “illegal.”
Attorneys for the suit, Tent City Alternative to LSD Viaducts and Andy Thayer v. City of Chicago, et al., No. 17 CV 4518, are Jeffrey Frank, Susan Hathaway Ritacca of Susan Ritacca Law Office, Alan Mills of Uptown People’s Law Center, Molly Armour of the Law Office of Molly Armour, and Adele D. Nicholas of the Law Office of Adele D. Nicholas.
As part of a transparently cynical move to stave off a threatened federal court injunction to halt the Sept 18th eviction of homeless people at the Lake Shore Drive bridge viaducts in Uptown, this morning the City apparently decided that there is problem with homelessness there.
After many failed promises of permanent housing for the homeless at the viaducts, shiny new Dept of Family & Support Services trucks with card tables pulled up this morning. Also there were various private social services agencies, a few of whom told me they’d been asked just yesterday by the City to show up.
Nothing against the agencies and their workers, but we’ve heard the City’s promises many times before, and only when threatened with legal action do they suddenly show any energetic action.
This afternoon, Federal Judge Sidney Schenkier said he would set a hearing sometime next week to decide the fate of our move for an injunction to stop the evictions until the City either permanently houses everyone at the viaducts (ie, not temporary shelters) or allows people to set up tents in another space of similar visibility and safety, such as the pedestrian mall in front of the old Stewart School in the 4500 block of N. Kenmore.