Mayor Lightfoot Throws Homeless Out of O’Hare Airport
A last-ditch effort to get some votes?
Are the homeless persons who were camped out in O’Hare Airport responsible for the 695 Chicago murders in 2022? For the 804 Chicago murders in 2021?
It is important to follow some of the “biggest news” of the year to make sense of what the mayor recently did about encampments at the airport.
Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot apparently decided to finally listen to people who were harassing her about all the homeless people in a burgeoning makeshift encampment within O’Hare Airport (https://blockclubchicago.org/2023/03/09/ohare-airport-flushed-out-people-experiencing-homelessness-as-security-presence-increases/). Perhaps she was listening because she was thinking of garnering support in the form of valuable votes from homeowners and business owners near the airport. Or tough-on-crime residents? Or conservative let’s-clean-up-our-city voters?
The mayor made some strong statements back in February (https://blockclubchicago.org/2023/02/17/lightfoot-pledges-to-remove-people-experiencing-homelessness-from-ohare-as-population-grows/).
She made it clear what was coming in her plans:
“We absolutely, fundamentally, cannot have people sleeping in our airports who are homeless, that is unacceptable,” Lightfoot said. “And so we’re going to continue within the bounds of the law to do what is necessary to provide those folks with support but elsewhere. They can’t be in our airports.”
Before the recent mayoral election, Lightfoot’s statements showed her resolute plan to get people out of O’Hare–but she did not make such strong statements about where the homeless were supposed to go. She has a variety of options to talk about—or had—since there is “311” and her brand-new All Chicago (charged with super powers and ready to solve all the problems of homelessness in the city) and even her own City of Chicago Department of Family and Social Services.
This last office was supposed to already be handling homeless services. The office already has processes and rules in place… but this office has perhaps been pushed out of a move to get people housed quickly for various reasons… (https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/fss/provdrs/emerg.html).
All Chicago is an amalgamation of different forces coming together to be a sort of one-stop service for coordination of homeless services. That mouthful means they are in charge of things homeless for the mayor. Their mission is to “unite our community and resources to provide solutions that ensure and sustain the stability of home.”
One quick solution to living on the street is the program called the ‘Expedited Housing Initiative’ (EHI). It was created “in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through EHI, Chicago Rents connects property partners with tenants and supplies rental assistance as needed up to a grant end date of September 30, 2022.”
It is now March 11, 2023.
News on updates, rules, processes, and procedures on how a homeless person in March, 2023, can get off the street and into an apartment is a topic for another article.
To return to the confusion of the O’Hare purging of persons into purgatory—the main reason to get them out of them seems to be that they look bad…
Homeless people look bad to travelers (people with money who can afford to fly, people with jobs who work hard and don’t want to give money to people who are lazy and who just sleep all day, and people who look different from the people who are sleeping all day at the airport) and others. Neighbors did not like the O’Hare settlement. And the mayor did not like the settlement.
Ariel Parrelli-Aureli of Block Club Chicago told us that “The mayor’s comments were in response to news stories by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and the New York Post about homelessness at O’Hare.” They went on to reveal she “…said it was important to consider the sources, which routinely criticize Chicago and her administration.” Further, Parrelli-Aurelia wrote that the mayor had claimed, “They’re never going to portray our city in a favorable light.” (https://blockclubchicago.org/2023/02/17/lightfoot-pledges-to-remove-people-experiencing-homelessness-from-ohare-as-population-grows/)
But WHY is it so bad to have people camped out in an airport? Why is the “airport” such a *big hairy deal to the mayor?
That is addressed also in one press conference: “ ‘We absolutely, fundamentally, cannot have people sleeping in our airports who are homeless, that is unacceptable,” Lightfoot said…” What’s more, the mayor added clarification with this note: “…at an unrelated press conference…‘Airports are a very different place than on the street or under an underpass. It’s a secure location’ “ (https://blockclubchicago.org/2023/02/17/lightfoot-pledges-to-remove-people-experiencing-homelessness-from-ohare-as-population-grows/).
Pressed for an explanation, the mayor has been saying things like this about national coverage of Chicago, like the notion the media are “…never going to portray our city in a favorable light” (https://blockclubchicago.org/2023/02/17/lightfoot-pledges-to-remove-people-experiencing-homelessness-from-ohare-as-population-grows/).
How can Chicago attract tourists, investment, bankers, corporations, and relocating businesses looking for a wonderful city to move to?
Investigating this all a little more, we begin to figure it out:
The homeless in the airport are a clear and resounding note about the racism, inequity, and chaos of what Chicago currently is. Bloomberg reports on the city, and talks about our having to face “deep-seated ills…” in a recent article.
Bloomberg mentions some of the problems of the city, mentioning for example: “Chicago has been the slowest-growing major US city for two decades. Its residents pay some of the highest taxes in the nation” (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-14/boeing-citadel-left-chicago-here-s-what-it-means-for-the-city).
How bad is the crime here? Bloomberg reminds us: “The city had five times more killings per resident than New York last year , with 797 homicides. That's the most since 1995, and a 60% jump from before the pandemic. Overall, crime has risen 37% this year, with increases in every one of the city’s 22 police districts (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-14/boeing-citadel-left-chicago-here-s-what-it-means-for-the-city).
Bloomberg also talks about crime. The mayor would rather focus on the homeless in the O’Hare Airport.
Fox News reminds us that “Chicago ended 2022 with 695 murders, a decrease from the 804 killings the city experienced the year before…” (https://www.foxnews.com/us/chicago-2022-violence-holiday-shootings-dead-wounded).
…So we can focus on harassing the homeless—probably blame them for forcing businesses like Boeing out of our city—and completely ignore the fact that almost 1000 people a year get killed in the city.
It is not known where we can find out if each homeless person did, in fact, get housing or other services once they had left the airport. We can contact a couple different groups to see who got help, who got a place to live, or transportation to it.
Removing the “unhoused” folks from the airport and sending them “on their way” did not bring 695 people back to life—or bring Boeing back—or win the election for Lightfoot. All removing the homeless from O’Hare Airport did was convince a bunch of homeless people that Chicago is a terrible city to deal with.
But they knew that already.
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*big hairy deal = phrased used to emphasize how unacceptable the mayor considers homeless people sleeping in O’Hare, since the airport is “a very different place than on the street or under an underpass…”
Further, it is a big hairy deal because an airport is a “secure location,” according to the mayor.