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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

CTA Security Guards Are Throwing Out Homeless People’s Belongings At Jefferson Park Station, Neighbors Say

CTA officials say they are investigating the issue and it is against the agency's policy. "They don't want us here," one resident said. "We are eyesores."

The tunnel at the Jefferson Park transit center as seen Nov. 16, 2022.
Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
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JEFFERSON PARK — CTA security guards threw away the belongings of a man who lives outside at the Jefferson Park transit center — and they’ve done it before, neighbors said.

On Monday, guards threw out blankets and sleeping bags belonging to an older man who has stayed in the center’s tunnel for about six years, said Todd Landen, who witnessed the incident.

The man, who speaks Polish, could not immediately be interviewed.

“They just grabbed his stuff, threw his stuff in the garbage bag,” Landen said. “They keep harassing this man. … He has a good heart and doesn’t bother anybody.”

Landen, who doesn’t stay at the center but is also homeless, said it’s not the first time he’s seen CTA officials throw away the belongings of people who stay at the station, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave.

“We are tired of seeing this,” Landen said. “They are throwing out everybody’s stuff in Jefferson Park. It’s really sad. The winter is coming. Just give [the man] his blankets back.”

Another man who lives at the station, who only wanted to be identified as Shorty, also said he’s seen people’s things get thrown away when they leave to go to the bathroom or to get food.

It has not happened to him, but “it happens all the time to the other guys,” said Shorty, who has been experiencing homelessness for about three years.

“I see them fill a trash bag and then throw it away” in the dumpsters, which are locked, he said.

People who stay at the center said it feels like the CTA is trying to kick them out.

“They don’t want us here. We are eyesores,” Shorty said.

Monica Dillon, who works with people who stay by the Jefferson Park transit hub and runs The Northwest Side Homeless Outreach volunteer group, said she is concerned about the issue as temperatures drop.

The problem seems to have escalated this week, Dillon said. She has replaced sleeping bags and blankets thrown away with those donated to her organization, she said.

“It’s been happening all week. I know because I am replacing it all,” Dillon said. People “need at least three sleeping bags to survive outside.”

A CTA spokesperson said the agency is investigating the incidents, and throwing away the possessions of people who are homeless goes against policy.

“CTA policy is to engage with our partners at Chicago Department of Family and Support Services when there is a violation to our rules of conduct. Only when a DFSS representative is present do they engage with the individual in question, and work with them to relocate their belongings,” the spokesperson said.

Loitering or storing personal property on CTA property is prohibited, as is “sleeping or camping on CTA property and any other uses which are not related to transit,” according to the agency’s rules of conduct.

On Tuesday, CTA officials announced they are working with the city for more outreach and support services for riders who are unsheltered and those grappling with mental health and substance abuse, which aims to address homeless issues on the CTA with a “compassionate, supportive standpoint,” the spokesperson said.

Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
The north-facing warming shelter at the Jefferson Park CTA transit station, pictured on March 9 2022, was boarded up March 1 to protect the structure after a man vandalized some of its glass panels, closing off the shelter to the public.

The Jefferson Park transit hub and its outdoor bus stops, which have been closed since late February after getting damaged, have long been a spot for people experiencing homelessness in the area to take shelter.

The bus stops should be repaired within the coming weeks and will be reopened once the repairs are completed, a CTA spokesperson said.

Advocates and people living outside say this week’s incidents point to an ongoing problem within the city: shifting around the responsibility of the homelessness crisis.

Half of the city’s alderpeople failed to show up to a special City Council meeting Monday to address homelessness through the proposed Bring Chicago Home ordinance.

Introduced in 2018, the Bring Chicago Home ordinance would hike the city’s real transfer taxes on sales of properties worth $1 million or more to fund homelessness services in the city, including permanent and temporary affordable housing for a growing number of unhoused Chicagoans. It was crafted by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) was among the council members who did not attend the meeting. His office did not reply to requests for comment.

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