Chicago (WLS) – The city is threatening to remove orange tents donated by a local businessman to the homeless across Chicago.
Andy Robledo owns a local botanical shop. He said the tent’s mission is personal to him and he wants to provide that shelter for as many people as possible.
“I am a recovery addict, and I have seen both sides and how substances can ruin your life,” he said. “I’m here to provide shelter, provide food, provide heating. Anything people need to survive.”
Robledo began providing tents, made and insulated for ice fishing, last year for non-resident residents to give them a warm place to live. Each tent costs about $350, Robledo said, which includes extra flooring to keep it safe and additional heating elements to help the homeless withstand the cold. They are also more aesthetically pleasing to societies, he said.
He has since distributed more than 70 tents across town with the help of community organizers such as Englewood Barbie.
“I understand the feeling of being forgotten, how it feels to not know why you are here. So my goal is to help people,” she said.
But organizers say they are getting opposition from the city. Earlier this week, the Department of Family and Support Services marked the tents with red notices indicating that the items “may be disregarded” because they violate City Code 10-27-070, which prohibits storing personal belongings on a public road.
Nina Sboden, who lives in one of the tents, said a city worker told them not to feel comfortable because they weren’t going to stay here much longer. They hope they can survive.
“Last winter was tough because we didn’t get that kind of help,” Spoden said. “People’s exit from their good hearts means a lot to us.”
Residents of the area expressed mixed feelings about the tents.
“It’s brightly colored and it’s outside,” said Tori Berman, a resident. “I think it’s fine there if you need a house, but I also don’t know if it promotes living on the streets, it’s interesting.”
The city told the I-Team that notices were placed on the tents so they could perform cleaning, and that no residents were relocated as part of this project.
Robledo said he’s been here with the city before.
He said, “If you look at the decree, it is very harsh language. It is intended to remove these tents.” “I’ve also seen the city take up tents without warning, so it’s not a clean-up. It’s a clean-up.”
The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services told I-Team that it engages with people in camps in the days leading up to cleanup operations to connect individuals to shelter, housing and other services, adding, “Since 2020, DFSS has invested $35 million to launch the Accelerated Housing Initiative (EHI),” which has so far moved more than 1,800 families to shelters or camps.”
But Robledo said people are staying on the city streets without homes, and as long as they are there he will continue to provide these high-quality tents.
“And if the city removes any of them, they will hear from us,” said Robledo.
The organizers behind the tents said they hope to work with the city in the coming days to try to persuade them to leave the tents in place.
Full statement from the city of Chicago
These notifications are sent to the property owners that there will be a cleaning on the mentioned date. It is important to note that no residents were transferred as part of this project. Once our DSS partners have performed the necessary maintenance and cleaning of this site, individuals can return to their site with their property.
These notices are posted at least 7 days in advance, and DFSS collaborates with camp residents in the days leading up to clean-up operations to connect individuals to shelter, housing and other services.
To better serve our fellow residents experiencing homelessness in and around camps across the city, DFSS also provides regular coordination of multi-day service events in the camps with the mobile health unit, outreach providers, substance abuse providers and mental health providers. Teams participate, assess and provide services including shelter and housing assessments.
Housing is the ultimate goal and path out of homelessness. Since 2020, DFSS has invested $35 million to launch the Expedited Housing Initiative (EHI), which has so far moved more than 1,800 families into housing from shelters or camps.
It is not illegal to be homeless in the city of Chicago, and the DFSS places the rights of these individuals first while balancing the safety and hygiene needs of the entire community.
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