City removes garbage, unused tents from homeless encampment near expressway

Those still living in the camp were generally happy with the operation; days earlier, city workers canvassed the tent city, next to the Dan Ryan Expressway at Roosevelt Road, and spray-painted the unoccupied tents with an “X.”

SHARE City removes garbage, unused tents from homeless encampment near expressway
Workers from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation clear out a homeless encampment near South Desplaines Street and West Roosevelt Road in February 2020.

Workers from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation clear out a homeless encampment near South Desplaines Street and West Roosevelt Road on Monday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Dozens of city workers converged on a homeless encampment near University Village Monday morning for a much needed cleaning.

Residents of the tent city on South Desplaines Street and West Roosevelt Road watched as the Department of Streets and Sanitation bulldozed unoccupied tents, discarded clothing and garbage.

Days before the scheduled cleaning, city workers canvassed the encampment spray-painting a large “X” on unclaimed tents — a mark used to identify trash. Residents were allowed to stay once the cleaning was completed.

Bobby Lopez, 52, said signs were placed throughout the encampment a week ahead of time. The advance notice allowed them to claim all their belongs so the city wouldn’t throw them away.

Workers from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation clear out a homeless encampment near South Desplaines Street and West Roosevelt Road on Monday morning.

Workers from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation clear out a homeless encampment near South Desplaines Street and West Roosevelt Road on Monday morning.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Lopez, who has lived in the encampment for several years, said the cleaning was long overdue. The last one was over a year ago.

“We are sick and tired of all the garbage piling up,” Lopez said. “We needed them to come through and do their annual clean up.”

This kind of operation is an example of how the city should go about cleaning encampments, Lopez said. It assures people’s belongings aren’t accidentally cleared out.

“We don’t have normal garbage men coming here every week like normal people do so what are we supposed to do with our garbage?” Lopez said. “This is the only thing we can depend on.”

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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