Activists propose $100 million more for housing the homeless during vigil for man stabbed in Grant Park

The vigil was held for Aaron Curry, who was stabbed to death in in July.

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Workers from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation clear out a homeless encampment near Roosevelt Road in February.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Activists Wednesday said the city should spend $100 million more on creating housing for the homeless during a virtual vigil honoring Aaron Curry, who was found stabbed to death last month in Grant Park.

The funds are desperately needed following recent attacks around the city on homeless encampments and residents like Curry, organizers of Wednesday’s Zoom call said.

RauQuaia Hale-Wallace, a Chicago Coalition for the Homeless organizer, spoke of the need for “safety for homeless people” and to “significantly increase money dedicated to housing.”

Vigil participants, who lit candles during the call, also highlighted recent fires at encampments on the Northwest Side that some suspect were arson.

“Homeless people are being shot. ... Our tents are being burned. And no one seems to care,” said Tom Gordon, a resident of the Uptown Tent City.

Many in the homeless community choose not to stay in shelters because “we have to worry about bugs [and] our stuff being stolen,” Gordon said.

Permanent supportive housing is the only way to “guarantee safety for all Chicagoans,” Hale-Wallace said.

To raise the $100 million, Mary Tarullo, the associate director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, proposed “tax[ing] the wealthy by altering the real estate transfer tax.”

But Tarullo said that the coalition is “open to talking with [Mayor Lori Lightfoot] about other ways to create a dedicated revenue stream to address homelessness. The group has introduced proposals to the city in the past and is currently discussing “plans for a renewed campaign,” Tarullo added.

With the coronavirus pandemic causing an increase in unemployment and evictions, more homelessness is expected, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said during the vigil.

“If we don’t see any type of real relief to renters, we know that we’re going to see an avalanche of evictions,” the alderman said.

Others who organized and spoke at the vigil included members of Heartland Health Outreach, Logan Square Ecumenical Association and Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

As for Curry, Jill Keiser, of the social service organization Chicago Lights, said the 58-year-old frequently brought others with him to the non-profit.

“I considered him our best PR person,” she said.

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