Homeless camp blocking sidewalk used by Finkl Academy students, Pilsen residents say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some residents on Chicago's Southwest Side are concerned about a viaduct that some believe is unsafe for students to walk through. It comes as the city tries to balance outreach and services for the homeless living in that area.

Chicago sidewalks are public, but some residents say the sidewalks along a stretch of 23rd Street between Western and Rockwell are not accessible due to some sleeping under the viaduct.

"They have been dealing with garbage, needles, seeing some of the homeless with knives," said Juana Medina, Pilsen Neighbors Community Council.

Some residents delivered a letter to a Deputy Commissioner at the City's Department of Family and Support Services on Tuesday.

"We don't judge the conditions for which they are there. We want them relocated to a home," Medina said. "At this point, our main concern is safety of the children."

For the families going to and from Finkl Academy along 23rd Street, they have to go through the viaduct.

"It's not safe for them to be walking. They have to walk in the street because the sidewalks are blocked," resident Maria Marta said. "August 30th they're going to come back and we need to see something before that."

Finkl fourth grader Juan Pascual makes that walk with his mother.

"I see needles and that makes me feel scared," he said. "Sometimes they hide from you and sometimes they don't. That's why I'm scared."

Some residents nearby are eager for changes as school starts in four weeks.

Full Statement from City of Chicago:

Providing shelter to all facing homelessness is one of the missions of the Office of Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. Our team is currently working on the citywide Expedited Housing Initiative (EHI), funded through $35M in CARES Act, to provide rapid rehousing for Chicagoans experiencing homelessness, and prioritizing those at high risk of illness or complications from COVID-19.

Individuals connect to housing through Accelerated Moving Events which are held for people residing in shelters, drop-in centers, or encampments. To date, 877 households have been housed and another 354 households are in the process of being housed through EHI. The City works to strike a balance between being responsive to legitimate concerns about encampments and respecting the rights of people experiencing homelessness. Homeless outreach teams will continue to engage residents for shelter, medical care, and housing options while paying attention to the health and safety of the surrounding area.
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