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Saturday August 24 -- Chicago

"They're destroying the community that already 
exists.  They're uprooting people from places 
that they've lived for years.  They're asking 
them to pull out without any place to go and 
it's like they're sending them out into the 
streets, as if they were used furniture or 
garbage .....because they don't have enough 
money to live in the South Loop.  So what it's
doing is destroying the neighborhood.  It's 
destroying the self-confidence that people have 
in themselves, and it's  making them feel as if 
they're not worthy to be here.  So where do 
people go when they leave here?  Do they go 
back to the shelter, do they go back to the 
street where they have been?  Or do they stay 
in the South Loop? ....And why are they doing
this?, so they can move the upscale people 
into the neighborhood.  They're not that 
concerned about the welfare of the homeless or 
the people that become unemployed.  Their 
interest is the almighty dollar.....  They're
thinking of us as if we're not even a second 
class citizen.  That's what I feel about what 
is going on in the South Loop." 

The speaker was Joe, a man moving in and out 
of homelessness over the years and one of a 
hundred who on August 24th, were protesting 
the city of Chicago's development plans for 
the downtown area known as the South Loop.
Most of those who came to the late morning 
rally were Black men, women and children - 
from streets, shelters and public housing - 
as well as activists for the homeless and 
affordable housing.  By planting a tree in
the middle of a downtown street, they were 
there to send Chicago's Mayor Daley a 
message: that low income and homeless people 
have no intention of being displaced from 
this community. 

The protest was organized by the "The South 
Loop Campaign for Development without 
Displacement' - formed by the Chicago 
Coalition for the Homeless and the Chicago 
Affordable Housing Coalition. Activists 
charge that the city has channelled $250 
million dollars to redevelop the South Loop 
for the benefit of private developers who 
have built upscale housing at the expense 
of community residents who are low-income 
and homeless.  One speaker pointed out that 
only a short distance from where the crowd
gathered were new $100,000 and up condos 
and lofts.  Activists also criticized the 
$40 million in bond funds used to upgrade 
sewers and other street infrastructure in 
the area for the nearby Central Station
development, a high priced luxury home 
complex who's most famed resident is Mayor 
Daley.  While the developer had pledged to 
set aside 20% of the units for low-income 
families, activists note that he never 
carried out his promise. 

Another demand made by South Loop Campaign 
is that the city "preserve, rehab or 
replace" the more than 1,000 units of 
single-room-occupancy housing in the area.  
They also want an additional 600 rental 
units in the South Loop affordable for low 
income families - contrasting this small
figure to estimates of 15,000 new units to 
be built in the South Loop area.  They 
charge that the city has not only refused 
to protect this low-income housing stock,
but openly advocates the destruction of 
several hundred units of SRO housing.  Nor 
are activists impressed by the city's
intention to build two new SRO's.  They 
point out that not only will those 370 new 
units not make up for the potential loss of 
1,000 SRO units, but that even more low 
income housing is needed. 

One of those endangered SRO's, the St. 
James Hotel, sits right across from the 
rally site.  It is presently up for sale, 
and according to the South Loop Campaign, 
the city government had refused to use any 
funds to rehab the building - claiming that 
the more than $15,000 per-unit price tag 
was "too cost prohibitive."  However, 
activists point out that the city has been 
spending three times that in subsidies 
given to for-profit South Loop developers. 

To add insult in injury, the city has
reportedly spent upwards of $180 million 
on the Democratic National Convention.  $12 
million had been for trees and flowers 
alone.  For that reason, activists from the 
South Loop Campaign have charged that the 
city cares more for a tree than the homeless. 
Illustrating that point at the rally was Tree 
Man, a homeless shelter resident dressed as 
a tree.  For the past week he has been 
following Mayor Daley around, demanding more 
spending on affordable housing in the South 

Toward the end of the rally the small silk 
lilac tree was placed in a mound of dirt 
boxed in by railroad ties.  Some children 
placed flowers around its base.  This is 
still OUR home it seemed to announce. As 
one activist said, "we're putting down our 
roots here."


The Mayor and city officials hope to focus the public's attention on the glitter and gleam of the city's development plans - be it freshly paved streets, new fencing or new upscale housing. The human costs to those without money, at whose expense this so-called development takes place - that is often kept obscured. It was at the rally, that one example of that cost was told, about a man pushed out of his home at the end of his life.

He was known to his friends as the "mayor" of the South Loop. For 34 years, Juan Rodriguez, he lived and worked in that community. Together with his wife, they raised two kids - one now a banker in South Dakota, the other landing a job with the city. Juan worked his whole life, though never making that much money. For 20 years he worked as a cook in the nearby Blackstone Hotel. After that, he was the janitor in the building that housed Catholic Charities. When the building was sold, a year ago, Juan lost his job. Shortly after that, developers set their sights on the building that he and eleven other Latino families lived in. It soon went up for sale. And before and before he and the other tenants could do anything about it, a new owner came into the picture.

In the midst of this uncertainty, Juan's health worsened, and he was forced to enter a hospital. It seemed he had cancer, but instead of any compassion from the new owners, Juan received the simple and cold hearted calculations of dollars and cents. Poor tenants bring in less money than high priced condos. The rents were jacked up $100, and with rents now unaffordable, the tenants all scattered. He died soon after, his wife having lost not only her husband, but her home. A hidden casualty of the "development" that is presumed to make Chicago a "world-class city."

This news alert issued by CounterMedia, a coalition of political organizations, media groups and individuals dedicated to providing alternative coverage of the Democratic National Convention and community struggle in Chicago.
1573 N. Milwaukee Ave., Box 517
Chicago,IL 60622
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The Other Chicago http://www.cpsr.cs.uchicago.edu/other-chicago/
CounterMedia web page http://www.cpsr.cs.uchicago.edu/countermedia/