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Deadline arrives for dozens of homeless to move ‘Tent City’

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CHICAGO -- The city set a 7 a.m. deadline before it forced dozens of homeless people to leave their encampments under the Lake Shore Drive underpasses.

As the deadline came this morning, Pastor Fred Kinsey from Unity Lutheran Church had a message for the two dozen homeless residents of Tent City.

“We know the struggle is going to continue, whatever happens today and in the weeks to come,” he said.

Soon, streets and sanitation workers collected tents and whatever was left under the viaduct and tossed it into a garbage truck.

“The city's solution has been to put people out of sight, out of mind,” Ryne Poelker, Uptown Tent City Organizers, said.

In court last week, a judge sided with the city, forcing out the homeless people camped in tents under the Lawrence and Wilson Avenue viaducts. The area is known as "Tent City."

The city is starting a repair project on the crumbling overpasses. The project that will include new sidewalk bike paths that will make it almost impossible for the Tent City to return.

Those who declined to go to shelters simply moved their tents and belongings a couple of blocks from where the viaduct is located, keeping the debate over affordable front and center in Uptown.

The city said the group could move to the Pacific Garden Mission on the near West Side. But they'd have to move every 12 hours and can't store their belongings there.

The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services provides outreach to the city's homeless population and has been working with the homeless in uptown for a year and a half offering to safeguard property if people agreed to go to shelters.

"The city - we are here. We’re rolling up our sleeves and we`re engaging people and offering services and that`s our role and our mission and we’ll continue to do that,” Joel Mitchell, deputy commissioner, said.

In court on Monday, advocates for the homeless dropped a motion to stop construction on the viaduct but vowed the fight for affordable housing would continue.

“We believe the city should take on the responsibility of providing permanent housing options to those individuals,” Patricia Nix-Hodes, who represents Uptown Homeless, said.

Carol Aldape, 68, was working with the city to find a shelter.

“If they take my dogs, I’ll go you know, I guess I’m just living on the streets,” she said.

She said she’s sad to lose her tent but is trying to stay positive.

“I can’t let it stress me and make me go out of my mind, even a little bit because I have to survive,” she said.

It’s unclear how long the city will allow the encampment to stay along Marine Drive --the construction project will be underway until the end of march.