Chicago Homeless Form A Union in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Juan Carlos Aviles was nervously watching city officials pass through Fireman’s Park, a small area north of Logan Square, on Friday morning in early July. His concerns arose from the tragic experience he and others living in the park had two weeks ago.

Police and street and sanitary workers appeared unexpectedly on Saturday morning, Abiles said.

“They lowered our tent when it was raining,” Abiles said. “They threatened us to get rid of everything, as you know — throw everything away from us.”

But this time, Abiles said it wasn’t. City workers emptied the park’s trash cans, avoiding bags containing belongings neatly packed and piled up on benches by residents of Abiles and other camps. Despite the small size of the camp (only four tents), this cleaning attracted a lot of cautious eyes. Some of them were from Chicago’s relatively new group, the Homeless Chicago Union.

“Our role as a union actually begins with building relationships, empowering people to take on this fight themselves and saying that they don’t have to accept it,” said the leader in establishing the group. Organizer Adam Gottlieb, who played a role, said. Gottlieb believes that the city changed its approach after Abiles and others screamed for themselves. Unions are part of a growing movement among the homeless people organizing here.

“We are trying to establish organic leadership in all camps … let people share resources and eventually unite more and challenge these bigger battles … it is the most deprived of rights. It starts with the people who have been, “said Gottleib.

According to the state, 60,000 Illinois households are delinquent in rent and may face peasant evictions. Human service department.. Many, like Abiles, are still homeless, despite a federal-funded program to keep people home during the pandemic. Many fear that the number of undetained people may double or even triple, as local governments hope that the eviction moratorium will eventually be lifted. increase. Union members believe that they will bring their own voice to the debate about how to deal with the impending crisis.

“We know where these people are,” said Ricardo Bella, the union leader staying in the camps on South Desplaines Street and West Roosevelt Road near Interstate 90/94. Told. “We are a force to consider. We acted at the City Hall and at the Thompson Center. We acted at the Daily Center. And we protest.”

The most important union demand is the increase in affordable housing. There are voices against the development of apartments in the parking lot of Weiss Hospital in Uptown. The union claims that the plan will bring luxury homes to areas lined with tents for people who do not have access to affordable units.

But since its inception in October, the group has also been aware of the reality of what Chicago citizens need to survive the winter and what they need to survive the next second wave of COVID-19 without housing. I am. The union has raised tens of thousands of dollars online from personal donations through GoFundMe and Venmo, who bought tents and propane tanks to keep people warm, Gottlieb said. On the coldest winter night, the union paid for the hotel room. We also purchased a phone to keep members connected as individuals evacuated to their designated locations during a pandemic.

But for Tamekia James, known to her friends as “Bonnie,” the union has done more than support her physical needs.

“We are now able to fight for ourselves and for others who are silent,” said union president James. James said he became homeless when he left the abusive relationship. Through the establishment and growth of the union, James said that being uncontained did not mean lacking skills or value. James said he found a purpose in communicating the lesson to others in the organization.

“Don’t stop. Fight for yourself. It’s difficult to do this,” she said. “Help me learn how to do it myself, and I can help someone else.”

The union was established as a local branch of the Homeless National Union, but the branch split without anyone disclosing it. Nonetheless, Chicago Group organizers say they know they’re going through history. In the late 1980s, with the rise of homeless people and the vacancy of public housing, unoccupied Chicago citizens established the Homeless Chicago-Gary Regional Union.

Joseph Pealey helped organize the homeless Chicago-Gary Union in the 1980s. The group invaded and lived in vacant public housing to draw attention to the plight of the homeless. Odette Youssef / WBEZ News

“They were doing extensive evictions and driving people out onto the streets. [The] Chicago Housing Authority. They were doing that, “said Joseph Pealey, a former union organizer. “So we started going to Henry Horner [Homes]To Cabrini[-Green], Everywhere, and we find vacant units, find homeless families, and move them. [We would] Fix locations, move them, call the news media, come down and cover it. ”

Pealey said the tactics worked. The union has succeeded in publicizing the fact that the city has available resources in the form of vacant homes to alleviate the homeless. Today, he believes there are similarities in how the city received billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid. He said he would offer a rare opportunity to devote considerable resources to problems that would almost certainly grow without it.

“So it’s time to organize,” he said.

Odette Yousef is a WBEZ race, class and community desk reporter.Follow her @oyousef..

Chicago Homeless Form A Union in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source link Chicago Homeless Form A Union in the COVID-19 Pandemic

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