Skip to contents
Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Touhy Park’s Tent City Is Gone, And Restoration Is Underway After Residents Leave For Housing

A tent city that occupied Touhy Park for over two years disbanded this month, with all of its residents being paired with or finding their own housing.

Restoration work is underway at Touhy Park, previously home to a large tent encampment.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

ROGERS PARK — The tent city in Touhy Park has disbanded as its residents have found housing, allowing for officials to work on fully reopening the park, officials said.

Restoration work is underway at the park at 7348 N. Paulina St. after the Park District last week began enforcing its rules against camping or being in parks after curfew, according to notices posted at the park.

Park rules on camping were enforced starting Friday, according to the post. But the tent city was already vacated as of March 24, when its last residents left for more permanent housing, said Ald. Maria Hadden (49th).

The action ends a nearly two-year presence of a tent city in Touhy Park, which caused the closure of park facilities and became a lighting rod in the neighborhood and the Rogers Park aldermanic election.

After a series of moving events and a decline in the encampment’s ranks during the winter, Hadden and Park District officials confirmed in February that park rules on camping would be enforced in March ahead of a spring park reopening.

Four residents of the tent city remained in the weeks prior to the re-enforcing of camping rules, Hadden said. Two people moved into apartments they were paired with through the city’s “accelerated moving event” program, while the other two said they had other places to go ahead of the enforcement of the rules, she said.

In total, 84 people living in Touhy Park were paired with housing through the city’s moving programs, Hadden said. Others at the park found housing through other means.

By Friday, crews had erected fencing around the portion of Touhy Park that held the tent encampment. Restoration will include tree trimming, grass aerating and re-seeding.

With the work, Touhy Park will fully reopen for spring programs in early April, Hadden said.

“There’s a lot of learning from this,” Hadden said. “We have not solved homelessness. We have to push for better systems for the city.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
The portion of Touhy Park that held a tent encampment is fenced off after its residents left the park for housing.

The tent encampment at Touhy Park formed in summer 2021 as the city experienced a dramatic expansion of homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its numbers have ebbed and flowed. The city held its first housing event at Touhy Park in November 2021, matching 20 residents of the park with housing.

The encampment’s numbers rebounded the following summer, and the Park District moved a day camp to neighboring Pottawatomie Park. With about 30 tents set up, the district in September closed Touhy Park’s field house and relocated all of its programs.

More housing events helped reduce the camp’s ranks over the winter, with only two residents remaining in February, Hadden said at the time. That allowed for the ramping up of park enforcement while final housing plans were made, she said.

With enforcement of park camping rules now in effect, some of the volunteers who organized mutual aid efforts at Touhy Park are asking the city to reconsider the policy.

Rogers Park Food Not Bombs called on officials to not arrest anyone living in the park. The group said on social media that not all of the unhoused people living in Touhy Park were paired with permanent housing, making it possible they find themselves back on the street.

“Forcibly evicting people from the park will not make the problem go away,” according to a Rogers Park Food Not Bombs statement posted online.

Hadden said the plan for enforcing camping rules is for anyone seen setting up in the park to be reminded of the rules and handed a sheet with contacts and resources on homelessness.

Park security will handle enforcement during park hours, and police will enforce park curfew after-hours. That there is “no intention and no desire to arrest people,” Hadden said.

Hadden said she is thankful neighbors helped people that sheltered in the park and said she is working to bring more resources to addressing homelessness.

“I am proud to be a part of a community that addresses crises from a place of compassion and action,” she wrote in her weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: