By the time unfamiliar hands yanked the poles out of the dirt and her tent collapsed like a soufflé, Carol Aldape had accepted her fate.

“I’m going to sit back like a lady of leisure and have my drink,” said the 68-year-old woman, sipping ginger ale from a Big Gulp plastic cup.

Moments later, Aldape — with her two dogs, Chief and Bella, sunning themselves nearby — fished a hand-rolled cigarette out of her purse, lit it and took a deep drag.

It was that sort of morning Monday for residents of the two dozen or so tents lining Wilson Avenue near North Clarendon, as city workers moved in to dismantle their encampment.

Most of the residents hauled their belongings to that spot Sunday, having lost state and federal legal battles to remain beneath the Lake Shore Drive viaducts at Wilson and Lawrence. City trucks moved in early Monday, with crews getting set to repair the crumbling viaducts.

A mixture of muted defiance and resignation — as well as some confusion — persisted for much of the morning among the tent city residents and their supporters. They cast suspicious glances toward a growing Chicago Police presence gathering near the viaduct, uncertain when or if they’d be given the boot.

Before crews pulled up her tent, Maggie Gruzlewski, 49, said she had no plans to move into a shelter.

“They have bed bugs. I have sleeping problems. I can’t sleep with so many people in one room,” Gruzlewski said. “And I don’t want to leave my boyfriend. We’ve been together 10 years.”

Raphael Mathis, 49, said he wouldn’t leave his tent willingly.

“I’m going to fight,” said Mathis, whose mother named him after the singer Johnny Mathis. “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

By late morning, city social workers were politely making the rounds, telling residents they would need to move and that they, the workers, would help them find shelter elsewhere.

And by 10:45 a.m., Chicago Police moved in, one officer standing behind each tent.

As Carol Aldape yells at police who are removing the homeless residents’ tents, Chief, one of her two dogs, snuggles behind her in Aldape’s motorized wheelchair. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

“The whole world is watching!” the residents and their supporters chanted. A driver slowed down, lowered his window and yelled, “Get these b••••••s out of here!”

“I ain’t going to no damn shelter,” grumbled resident Rochelle Chambers, as she tossed a bar of soap, a package of table salt, a pair of sunglasses and other possessions into a blue plastic tub.

A lawyer representing the tent city residents said his clients weren’t mistreated, but said the situation could have been handled differently.

“The police were certainly polite about it,” said Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center.

“However, they should never have been moving people out in the first place. They gave people 30 days to move out from under the viaducts; people voluntarily did that, and then they gave them half an hour to move out of this area, and said, if they moved anywhere else in Uptown — on a public street or public property — they would also be arrested. So they didn’t give them any options at all.”

As his fate became clear on Monday, Mathis decided he wouldn’t resist efforts to evict him.

“I’m not going to risk missing my kids,” said Mathis, whose twin 10-year-old daughters are living at a nearby Salvation Army shelter. “I’ve got to be there for them. I’m throwing stuff away. Then I’m on the move.”

As city workers moved in to dismantle the tents, Mathis said he couldn’t say where he’d end up.

“I haven’t the slightest idea. That’s why I’m talking to God,” he said.


Maggie Gruzlewski, 49, had lived under the Wilson Avenue viaduct with her boyfriend for six months. She hopes the city will let them stay on the strip of grass along Wilson just west to the viaduct. “But if there is rain, we have water inside,” she said with dismay on Monday. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times


City employees (right) were out on Wilson Avenue Monday telling residents of the homeless encampment that they would have to move. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times


City workers converged on the Wilson Avenue viaduct under Lake Shore Drive Monday morning. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times