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Where Have all the Homeless Gone?

As construction on Loyola University’s lakeshore campus has increased over the past several years, many Loyola students have noticed that the number of homeless in and around Lakeshore campus has continued to drop. But if there are less homeless lingering in Rogers Park, what has been the cause of their disappearance?

A good place to start might be with the community in question. John, who chose not to reveal his last name, said Rogers Park has become a less accepting community of people like him. “You know, Rogers Park used to always be a nice community. That was before all the construction and the police started drivin’ us out,” he said.

And according to the Chicago Police, there has been an increase in the number of homeless people moving into farther northern cities, like Evanston. “We have noticed more activity in towns like Evanston, north of Rogers Park, with the homeless and gangs, but we can’t speculate as to what exactly is causing this. The CTA construction could be one culprit, but likely among a variety of different factors,” said a spokesman with the Chicago Police.

Though he can’t speculate as to what exactly is the issue, Director Robert Fine of Loyola’s Campus Safety Department says activity on campus has not affected the homeless population here. “The construction hasn’t really affected them, and we’re not dong anything special to make them leave the Rogers Park area, no. The closing of the Wincrest has been the issue,” he said.

Campus safety officer, Sarah Jurewitch, says the closing of the Wincrest, a halfway house, located on the 6300 block of Winthrop, is the reason many homeless no longer linger around Lakeshore.

“Though these people are technically housed, they were forced to leave the facility during the day and would linger around the Lakeshore campus,” Jurewitch said. Their presence around campus was never prohibited, but many of Wincrest’s residents, who were released during the day, would become aggressive with their panhandling or otherwise agitate students.

The Wincrest, which is a privately owned facility that is supported by the State of Illinois, closed in fall 2011 because the owner, Don Farclas, could no longer maintain the facility for health reasons. He attempted to sell the building, but there were no buyers. He could not be reached for comment.

Once the building closed, any residents of the building were required to move to other facilities.

Some Loyola students do not believe that the closing of the Wincrest was the real problem. Loyola student, Kevin Gonzalez, a senior computer science major, disagrees with Director Fine’s assessment of the problem. “I definitely think that Loyola police are doing something. I see them give homeless people who live around us trouble all the time,” he said.

Another Loyola senior, Dave Martin, a criminal justice major, agrees with Kevin’s assessment. “I don’t think the construction has anything to do with it. Loyola just doesn’t want homeless people around all their pretty buildings,” he said.

Despite student’s less than generous assessment of their services, campus safety officer, Sarah Jurewitch, says the closing of the Wincrest reduced the number of homeless around Lakeshore campus by half. “The closing made my job a whole lot easier, to be honest. That place housed, easily, 60 to 70 people, and they would just linger around Loyola during the day,” she said.

Amy Johnson, a junior biology major, knows what it feels like to be harassed by panhandlers around Loyola. “There was one instance when, as a sophomore, I was just walking down the street by Felice’s and some guy was yelling really mean things at me because I wouldn’t give him money,” she said.

“Of course, it’s not illegal to be homeless, but when they become a nuisance to students, that becomes a pretty big problem for us,” said Fine.

There have been a number of instances when Loyola police have dealt with homeless people accused of being a threat to the community. “There is one man, who frequently sets up camp on the north side of campus, by the Starbucks and 400 Theater, who has been known to harass people who don’t give him money,” said Jurewitch.

Campus safety told him that he can no longer sleep there, and he has been moving throughout the neighborhood for a new place to live. Campus safety officials are not certain whether he actively admits himself to homeless shelters or whether he is on any medication, though they speculate he is diagnosed with some kind of mental disorder because the severity of his behavior fluctuates without any known cause.

In another instance, a homeless man was living above the dropped ceiling in Lewis Towers. Only after a maintenance worker discovered his belongings was the man removed from the building.

Bottom line, the Rogers Park homeless population is tired of all the activity around Loyola’s campus. “We’re just trying to live as normal of a life as we can. It’s hard when everybody is against you,” said Lashawn, a homeless woman in the Rogers Park area.

Source for photo: Nicolas-U

  • written by rgilmore on May 11th, 2013
  • posted in Edit
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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.