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Tipsheet

'Dystopian' Homeless Encampments Have Been Set Up Inside Chicago's O'Hare Airport

Homeless encampments have been set up inside of the terminal buildings at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as the city’s homeless population increases. 

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According to the New York Post, the homeless population inside the airport has instigated “serious safety concerns” among airport staff and airline passengers, as many have come forward saying they’ve been harassed or followed. 

“It’s out of control. None of us feel safe,” Vonkisha Chatman, a custodian who works the overnight shift in Terminal 1 and 2, said in an interview with CBS News. She added that she and other staffers have been harassed and that they homeless people leave litter behind.

“They will come up behind you. This one man followed us last night,” Catherine Thompson, another O’Hare employee, told the outlet. “From the time we get here until the time we leave in the morning, they will be here.”

Reportedly, the police said they cannot intervene unless people in the airport are physically touched by the homeless people.

“They just tell us to be careful because it’s out of their hands — like they can’t do anything,” Chatman said to CBS.

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Jessica Dubuar, who works at the Haymarket Center, which serves the homeless community, said that the number of homeless people in the airport is increasing each year. In 2022, the Center encountered 618 homeless people at the airport. In 2021, they saw 431. Dubuar said that the homeless shelters are full and that is why they are staying inside the airport.

In a statement, the Chicago Department of Aviation said that it is “aware of the increasing population of unsheltered individuals at O’Hare International Airport. It’s a common occurrence at this airport and airports nationwide when temperatures drop in the winter months.” 

“The CDA remains committed to working with its partners at the Chicago Fire Department (CFD), the Chicago Police Department (CPD), and other governmental and community-based organizations to support those in need and connect them with available resources in Chicago,” it concluded.

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