CHICAGO
03/26/2013 04:54 pm ET

Uptown Homelessness: Apparent Wilson Avenue Viaduct Evictions, Man's Death Anger Advocates

Though weeks have passed since Ald. James Cappleman raised the ire of the Uptown neighborhood in a flap with a Salvation Army food truck that serves the area's homeless population, backlash against the alderman appears to have only intensified.

Last Friday, more than 200 people marched through the neighborhood -- while carrying a mock coffin -- to protest the "death of diversity" and a perceived failure on Cappleman's part to protect affordable housing opportunities in the neighborhood amid an uncertain fate for two single-residency hotels -- the Wilson and the Chateau, the Windy City Times reports.

Advocates also allege that Cappleman refused to meet with two community groups -- Lakeview Action Coalition and the Organization of the NorthEast -- to discuss their concerns with recent actions the alderman has taken impacting the ward's low-income and homeless residents, though Cappleman claims the two groups were invited -- but did not show up -- to a February town hall meeting on those issues, according to the Windy City Times.

Mysteriously, the city has also moved to evict homeless people who seek shelter at the Wilson Avenue viaduct under Lake Shore Drive.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Brown, who first covered the Salvation Army truck controversy, city Streets and Sanitation crews first removed any items that homeless people living there cannot carry earlier this month -- and police later came and issued tickets to those who remained there.

"I lost a backpack, clothes, shoes," Gregory Guest, one of the individuals who seeks shelter at the Wilson Avenue underpass, told CBS Chicago. Guest noted that some of those who stay there moved elsewhere after the police ticketed them, but that they have since returned.

Guest, 47, told the Sun-Times that his friend, 58-year-old Jack King, had been stressed about what he called pressure from the city to vacate the area. On March 13, King was found dead outside a city health clinic nearby.

“I can’t believe he’s gone. He was like a little older brother," Guest told the Sun-Times.

Six days prior to his death, King spoke with WBEZ's Odette Yousef. He expressed frustration at how police had treated him and how Cappleman has approached the issue of homelessness in the lakefront ward since he took office.

"He’s trying to kick people out of here and there, and you can only chase a person that has nowhere to go so far. There’s got to be something, you know?” King told WBEZ.

Cappleman, a licensed clinical social worker, has claimed to both the Sun-Times and WBEZ that he has never asked for those at the Wilson underpass to be evicted and he was unaware where any order to do so originated.

Since Cappleman was first criticized over the Salvation Army issue and amid ongoing protests on the matter, the alderman has reportedly patched up his relationship with the agency, which is continuing to feed the hungry from a mobile truck at Wilson Avenue and Marine Drive.

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