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Homeless advocate: Uptown decision sets course for appeals
by Matt Simonette
2017-04-16

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A homeless advocate said that an April 14 ruling by a Cook County judge—though it affirms the City's position in an ongoing dispute over the status of numerous persons experiencing homelessness in Uptown—nevertheless registers as "a small victory" in making that dispute part of the public record and setting the course for future appeals.

The case, more than anything, "is about the unconscionable harassment of the homeless in Chicago in general," said activist Andy Thayer of Uptown Tent Cities Organizers ( UTCO ) and Gay Liberation Network ( GLN ).

UTCO, in September, 2016, had suggested that persons experiencing homelessness move their tents to a space in front of the former Stewart Elementary School, 4525 N. Kenmore Ave. But a construction company, backed by Chicago police, fenced off that space and no construction ever took place there in subsequent months. UTCO applied for a new permit once the construction company's permit expired and removed its fencing, but was turned down. Thayer filed an appeal.

In March, a city official contacted Thayer and acknowledged that the construction company's permit was illegal and asked Thayer to withdraw the appeal. Thayer complied, but the fencing was then reinstated almost immediately. Thayer refiled his appeal, at which time the fences were removed again.

"The city has clearly been playing games with this," Thayer said.

At a subsequent April 12 hearing, Thayer and his attorney maintained that the city, in requiring public use permits to erect tents—which it is in this case—was in violation of the 1st and 8th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Constitution, the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights and Chicago's Public Assembly Ordinance.

The April 14 decision, written by Administrative Law Officer Frank Lombardo, upheld the city's current refusal. Lombardo wrote, "The Appellant [Thayer] sets forth various Constitutional arguments under the first and eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under Article 1 section 5 of the Illinois Constitution and the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights. This body does not have jurisdiction to decide Constitutional issues and therefore the Constitutional arguments were permitted to allow the parties to make and preserve the record for possible appeal."

UTCO has 35 days to appeal the ruling.

"What's hanging in the balance is that those viaducts [off Lake Shore Drive, where many persons experiencing homelessness reside] are scheduled to be repaired this summer and those folks need a secure place to go," said Thayer.


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