ROGERS PARK — Residents of a Far North Side tent city were given fake eviction notices this week as part of an apparent stunt from a college student linked to a political gadfly challenging the incumbent aldermen.
The one-page notices titled “Maria Hadden’s Five Day Notice To Vacate” were stuffed into belongings and posted on signs in and around Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina St., residents said. They were dated Sept. 27 and listed the name of Hadden, the 49th Ward alderperson, in bold blue type over a line reading “landlord/agent.”
The notice says Touhy Park residents have five days to leave and clear the area of “all buildings, sheds, closets, out-buildings, garages, barns and other structures used in connection with said premises.”
It also says residents will be relocated for free to the Four Seasons Hotel in Gold Coast. Their stay at the hotel, 120 E. Delaware Place, would be open-ended “for as long as it takes for Maria Hadden to find you appropriate housing,” the notice states.
The notices were completely fake, and Hadden was not involved with them in any way, she said.
The notices say they were “served” by Bill Morton, president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce and candidate for 49th Ward alderman. Sarah Lim, a DePaul University freshman who is considering a run for mayor, is listed as the document’s “affiant,” or someone who files an affidavit.
Residents said they did not see the person who distributed them.
Lim said she was solely responsible for the fake eviction notices. Morton denied having any involvement.
Lim and Morton have worked together on previous political efforts, Morton said.
Some of the residents packed up their belongings in response to the flyers, encouraged by the notice telling them they would be put up in a fancy hotel. But by Wednesday, they learned they were being duped.
The fake notices did not come from Hadden’s office or any city agency, Hadden confirmed.
“We found out today that everything was a lie,” said Brandon Dotson, resident of the tent city. “We were ready to go. … Don’t do that to us. That’s bogus.”
Hadden said she went to Touhy Park on Wednesday to tell its residents the notices were fake. Some of the residents broke down in tears, Hadden said.
“These are folks who are actively participating, trying to get housing through the city’s process,” Hadden said. “They were really upset by this. Not funny.”
Hadden said she is referring the fake notices to the city’s Law Department and to her personal attorney. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the flyers are illegal.
Morton said he has assisted Lim in her possible run for mayor. The college student sought his help in getting on the mayoral ballot and other aspects of her prospective campaign, Morton said.
Lim appeared this week on the radio program produced by Morton and his associate, Trudy Leong. In the interview on WZRD-FM, Lim signaled she is rethinking her possible mayoral run.
Lim told a Block Club reporter in text messages she was solely responsible for the flyers.
“I do have a plan for the homeless problem there, and this was a publicity stunt to drive traffic to my site where I am going to discuss it,” Lim said. Morton “had nothing to do with it, I do hope he is not mad at me.”
Morton said he was “not at all” responsible for the eviction notices.
“What a horrible prank,” Morton said. “It seems like a prank. I had nothing to do with it.”
The false eviction notice is the latest controversy surrounding the Touhy Park tent city.
Earlier this month, the Park District closed the Touhy Park field house and moved programs to neighboring facilities in response to the growing tent city.
The Touhy Park tent encampment popped up in summer 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic caused a housing crisis and increase in homelessness.
Its numbers have ebbed and flowed. In November, the city relocated more than 20 residents into housing. Since the camp formed, 64 residents have been matched with housing, Hadden said previously.
Despite those efforts, the camp’s population swelled again this summer.
Talk of the encampment has dominated conversation in Rogers Park social media groups, town halls and meetings over a proposed men’s shelter in the neighborhood. The conversation has been ripe with mud-slinging and falsehoods.
A public meeting regarding the Touhy Park tent city will be held Monday.
The encampment and issues of homelessness have also factored heavily in the upcoming aldermanic race in Rogers Park.
In a previous interview, Morton said he had no involvement in posting flyers around the neighborhood that opposed the men’s shelter and which contained falsehoods about the project, despite some neighbors claiming on social media they saw him do so.
This is Morton’s second run for the Rogers Park ward office. The election is Feb. 28.
In 2019, Hadden and then-incumbent Joe Moore contested Morton’s candidacy and he was booted from the ballot. He ran as a write-in candidate, he said. Hadden won then and is now running for reelection.
Morton also ran for 49th Ward committeeperson and lost to Rep. Kelly Cassidy, garnering 17 percent of the vote.
Morton said he believes the city should work to find housing for Touhy Park’s residents so it can reopen the park and provide services there.
“This is a people issue,” he said. “I don’t believe they belong in the park. I think they need attention in a safe way.”
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