West Loop homeless on edge as city threatens to discard donated tents

Willie Parker woke up braced for action Thursday morning.

The 66-year-old lives in a tent in the West Loop. The week before, he had found a sticker attached to it that seemed to indicate if it wasn’t cleared that morning, it would be removed by the city.

"We’re waiting for the city to come with a wrecking crew and come and confiscate the tents," Parker said.

That’s why he was on edge, as were the dozen others living in the underpass on West Fulton Street, between Clinton and Canal streets. They were joined by a group of people who simply showed up in support.

"They’re not taking these tents away unless they offer these people housing right now," Andy Robledo said, addressing the group. Robledo supplied the high-quality tents Parker and the others live in.


The stickers attached to the tents read that "storing personal property on the public way" was prohibited; and if the personal property was not removed, it would be "discarded by the city." Removal would occur on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. "or any later day or time," according to the stickers.

The group of around 20 people held up signs in support, a few played songs on guitar and passed around coffee and donuts; but, ultimately, the city did not remove the tents.

An official from the city’s Department of Family & Support Services said the notes were poorly worded; the agency intended only to remove any empty tents.

"We’ve won the battle but this is not over," Robledo said, before leading the group to where the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless was hosting a news conference.

From there, the two groups marched together to City Hall, where they delivered a letter addressed to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The letter asked the mayor to meet with the group, update the city’s policies regarding personal property on the public way and make a public statement saying the tents would not be removed.

Back at Fulton and Clinton, Lewis Thomas nodded in appreciation of the group of supporters gathered at the corner.

"It’s given us the opportunity to see that people care," the 54-year-old said.

The West Side native, who grew up near Damen and Lake, has lived in the underpass for the past several years. From that location, he said, it’s easier to find both odd jobs and help.

"I love to be able to know that people care, that we’re an equal part of humanity," he said.

"If being a part of humanity doesn’t matter, then what does?"