Chicago Sun-Times

Homeless on the CTA

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This morning's Sun-Times "Ride" column featured a story about the homeless on the CTA. A few months back the CTA posted signs at Red and Blue Line terminals reminding passengers that continuous riding on a sign fare is prohibited. CTA officials said this was not directed at the homeless -- but homeless advocates fear it's a sign of a crackdown on homeless riders -- at a time when the number of homeless is growing.

There's an interesting discussion going on about this story in the comments section -- looking at both sides of the issue. I want to ask here on the blog -- what else can the CTA, or should the CTA do, to help the homeless on the system?

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21 Comments

"What can the CTA do to help the homeless you ask?
Why not ask what the homeless can to to help themselves?"

"And if i was broke and out of luck, you wouldnt find me sleeping on the train. Its much easier to take the easy way out and give up. If i was homeless I would be trying to find ways to better my life. (but thats just me, some people dont have it in them to put in the hard work!)"

I love the above 2 comments.
These posters obviously know why homeless are homeless & I urge them to write books on it so they can help the problem, not just comment on it.
You two obviously know what issues they have in life that made them homeless. You know all the reasons one would walk away from the home they once had & live in the street.
Hot damn!
I need to get to know you two geniuses.

Not all homeless are addicts. Not all homeless have mental illness. Some have made such bad mistakes in their lives as to warrent them leaving it all behind & no longer burdening the family with their issues. To say that a homeless person "gave up" is what fuels this countries dislike for them. I say to you, you have no concept of depression, despair & systematic abuse that might cause one to just say, "I can't do it anymore".
I feel sorry for you two.

Do some study on human behavior & then open your eyes on what makes a homeless person tick. You just might learn something.

I dont think it has anything to do with someone being an "Uptowner", Sagemama. Im definitely not rich or drive a fancy car. I always give a buck or 2 to the poor guy sleeping on the street. It boils down to the fact that we deserve a safe, clean and positive environment while riding the CTA. And if i was broke and out of luck, you wouldnt find me sleeping on the train. Its much easier to take the easy way out and give up. If i was homeless I would be trying to find ways to better my life. (but thats just me, some people dont have it in them to put in the hard work!)

I love how Uptowner can look out the window and discern why people are homeless. How perceptive! You know their story, whether or not they are mentally ill, or abuse drugs?
Please. Get over yourself. One day you might need a little mercy or kindness, like from God, and because of your small petty heart, it just won't be there.
Better get ready.

I agree, homeless people should not be allowed on the EL. The blue line to Forest Park, is notorious for homeless people on the train. I have seen everything to a man masturbating on the train, to one of my friends being slapped in the face. There are some seriously messed up people who take that train. Which is why I stopped taking it. I would rather pay the extra money to park and in gas. I think the best way to sum this argument up was said previously: " I don't sleep in a Southwest airplane and travel the country all day to stay warm."

One line in particular makes the homeless get off at the end of the line. The blue line, forest park El stop. This line is filled with homeless people and smells like urine. I have seen a man masturbating and one of my friends was slapped by a person on this blue line. These are the many reasons I stopped taking the el. I don't believe that homeless people should be allowed to ride the EL all day. One person in an above comment was completely right- " You don't see me on Southwest, traveling the country to keep warm."

As for a person riding the train a few times per day, I say the homeless should not be able to take advantage of services offered. The train is for one thing, transportation from one location to the next. Simple. When you purchase a ticket, what is the offer for which you are accepting? A ride from your location or station to the station of your choice. You are not paying for a 8 hour ride, nor are you paying for additional places for your bags. I, as a paying customer, do not feel as if a person because they are homeless should be allowed to adversely possess any portion of the train he so chooses. When I see a bum, covered in a jacket filling the entire bench, while I have to stand, I'm upset. For a paying customer I did not take on the option of supporting the homeless. There are other medians for them to live, eat, and find shelter. There is absolutely no need for my ticket to be of less value because someone needs a place to live.

Its Joe Joe again.

What i think it comes down to is that the CTA is an incompetent organization/company. It should be up to the CTA to control access and safety on their trains/busses.

Crap, how come you don’t see me sleeping on a Southwest flight all day? Why am i not traveling cross country just to keep warm? After each destination, they clear out the passengers. Perhaps if CTA employees notice the same guy hanging out at a stop everyday they should take some kind of proactive action? Or is that too much work?

I am sick of the CTA and their employees. The reason why its in shambles is because no one cares about the job they do. They have no respect or pride. Its really disgusting.

You would think that being in service for over 100 years they would have found a formula for success. Like i mentioned before, the only reason they are still around is because the City would fall apart.

Idea?: Why not privatize the CTA? Usually prices go up when this happens but i am willing to dish out an extra 50 cents to ensure my safety and health. A private company will care about its image and level of service. With this idea, we can ensure controlled access to the facilities and ensure a cleaner commute.

PS. I hate the smell of urine. CTA needs to take action. They need to quit using excuses and start trying to come up with solutions.

What i don't understand is they have so much 2 say about the homeless but what about the ones that stay on the train just 2 rob the ones on their way 3 work whats been done about that see i work uptown i get on the red line at 4:27am almost everyday i don't think 2 much about the ones that homeless because all they are looking for is a place 2 lay there head who are we 2 tell the that there money is not good enough

Seriously what is the problem? If they pay their fare who is to say that they can't enjoy the warmth and comfort of the el train? They paid the fare, so... As long as people are not actually causing problems, i.e. urinating and such...then so what?

If you don't like to SEE homeless people, may I suggest that you get "from point A to point B" in a limo or taxi or some other private car so that you will not actually be among the citizens of Chicago, which includes, whether you like it or not, homeless people. Cuz that's how it seems, that people do not want to actually have to face the issue of homelessness in the city. Well, I think we should.

Nice try blaming the left for wandering homeless. Perhaps you're too young to remember when Reagan's deinstitutionalization and housing disinvestment policies.

Riding the CTA is an interesting experience. We do need to make sure the homeless will have a place to stay. The shelters offer the best possible location for a warm meal and a nice rest. We must join together and get our homeless taken care of during these cold nights.
Benigna Marko simply agrees that taking care of the homeless is important. The issue here is not why, it is simply a need. We certainly can learn from our homeless people, they wonder and not even bother others.
Benigna Marko

I thought this war pretty good:

http://www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/0201homeless.htm

My father grew up in New York City in the 1930's. The Great Depression, the most crushing economic collapse in many lifetimes, was a daily reality. As a child he roamed all over the city via its trolleys and subways. And yet, he never saw people sleeping on grates and benches, wandering around draped in blankets, camped out in front of every subway stop. Nor did the vast majority of urban Americans. Such things were unheard of.

Beggars just hanging around or pestering honest people in the streets was something every American associated with faraway lands, cities like Cairo, Mexico City, Calcutta. That's why Washington DC today, and other American cities, are still a shock for my father. The character and fabric of daily life in America's urban centers, even our financial, shopping, government, and recreational districts, has changed dramatically for the worse.

Left-wing politicians and, to a great degree, left-wing judicial activism, are responsible for this collapse. Generations ago, police officers would simply arrest vagrants for violating laws against, well, vagrancy. And those not in their right minds were kept in mental hospitals, and given treatment.

Once the Left was finished, however, the mentally ill could not be detained or treated against their will if they were deemed not a danger to themselves or others. And great solicitous care was taken for the rights of bums; now a paper bag surrounding a bottle of rotgut cannot be opened by the police as proof that a wino is violating the city's ban on drinking in public, not without a search warrant.

And the parks and sidewalks of America's cities take on the character of miserable Third World slums.

The CTA should install barriers on the end of line platforms to prevent riders from changing direction without paying a fare.

CTA cars and buses are not hotels.

I used to ride the CTA frequently and here's my take...

While I have tons of sympathy for the homeless (as I volunteer at a homeless shelter for women), I just do not feel that allowing them to ride the CTA trains to warm up is not the answer.

I agree with Joe Joe's post; riding the CTA with some of the homeless is horrendus. There is the smell of urine and the rudeness of the CTA employees (I have YET to meet one who was pleasant and helpful) that makes my eyebrows raise when there's these Doomsday threats or the fare increases. Some of the cars on the redline are pitiful, while if I were to ride the Purple Line, the cars are warm and clean.

God forbid if you ride a bus for the first time. The bus drivers (ALL OF THEM) are extremely rude or if you're in your vehicle, they almost run into you on the street. Not to mention when I used to work in Evanston, if someone committed suicide on the tracks, there was no type of protocol for riders if a section of the train is shut down. Just a mess!

I truly dislike the CTA and although the winter months are upon us, I'll continue to drive my car through the cold and snow.

I ride the Blue line during peak hours to and from work. I have seen people (presumably homeless) coming off drug highs and urinating themselves. The smell and conduct sometimes is so awful I switch cars. With that said, the Blue line runs 24 hours and peak times are maybe 5 hours of the day? Sure it’s not the responsibility of the CTA to provide shelter for people in need, but trains run anyway and the space is there during non-peak hours. If everyone behaves themselves, what is the big deal of letting people ride the lines? If the CTA does a better job of monitoring the activities in their cars, then who is hurting in this situation? Besides, I have had plenty of extremely stinky smokers sit next to me too.

Chicago has had homeless for decades. The CTA has always had 'homeless' ridership. When I was a lil kid in the '60s riding the bus with my grandmother she discreetly motioned toward a homeless man and said, 'There but for the Grace of God go I." Years later I found myself one of the working homeless, twice. Homeless people are just that - homeless. They are not all drug/alcohol addicts or just lazy people. Shelters and churches mean well but they're scary and demeaning. Family and friends are - complicated. Riding the CTA offers a modicum of dignity, security and comfort. I don't like the urine smell either, but I'm glad the CTA was and is there. (A note on the urine thing: In the 40 years I've used the CTA I have seen MANY men urinate in/on buses, Els and stations. They were not vagrants.)

It is hard enough for the CTA to provide transportation. Those who do note ride it to get from point A to point B should to be thrown off.

It is up to the governments and charities and such to help the homeless, not the cash strapped CTA.

As a CTA passenger I would like to be able to step onto a train and not have to be forced to smell urine, sit in urine or sit next to someone who smells like urine. Homeles people scare riders away from the CTA. Would you allow your teenage child to ride the train after 10pm? The homeless problem is just one of the many issues that is wrong with the CTA. Common business practice states that I provide a fee for a service, knowing that I should be safe.

While we are on the topic of CTA, how about they do something about cleaning up that mess? Why should I have to pay an increased fee to ride the train when the service does not improve? If the CTA was a private company, it would have been out of business decades ago. I’m sure that the CTA executives get paid a pretty salary to continuously decrease safety, performance and overall maintenance of the CTA facilities.
Doomsday? Really? Seriously, if I was the governor (and i wasn’t in prison) I would have tried to fix these jerks. I agree that the CTA is a life line for the City of Chicago but there is no reason for them to declare a Doomsday. It’s not the public’s fault that they cannot control what they spend. I have never even met a polite, professional or courteous employee while using the CTA. When i ask a question, it’s like talking to a high school kid who doesn’t give a ...care.
CTA is my arch enemy. I rather spend an extra $2 to take the Metra and avoid the urine and stupid business ethics of the CTA!

as a former homeless person and knowing some of the cities homeless now. I feel for them they are turned away from shelters all the time why cause they are just to full. so putting up signs to one isent exactly going to help..... what might help and have everyone a bit more comfortable with the idea is haveing one car during non peek times just for homeless to warm up or sleep, maybe put a closed circuit camera in the car to make sure no nonsense goes on. I mean at night i usually see cars comepletely empty so whats the harm in making one for them to warm up or cool down in summer. I mean the cars are going on the track regardless. Im sure most anyone can agree to this... and i know it might cost a bit but maybe there is a grant or something the cta could go for as a partial shelter... fact is if you make them pay to ride each way all they are going to do is either hit more people up for more money or rob someone just so they can stay warm.. I think everyone when thinking about that might just see the plus side of allowing one car for them to warm up or sleep in for short times.

What can the CTA do to help the homeless you ask?
Why not ask what the homeless can to to help themselves?

Living in the Uptown neighborhood, which the City uses as its leper colony for the homeless, mentally ill, and the drug addicted has taught me a few things.

First, available shelter spaces go unused each and every night because the homeless refuse to go to them - even when the city provides free transportation to the facilities.

Second, shelters are not the answer. The federal government and city have changed to a new transitional housing model that puts people into temporary housing quickly and gets them out of the street/shelter cycle.

Finally, even with available shelters and transitional housing, chronic drug abusers will not get off the street. They prefer their bottles, needles, and crack spoons to any housing, if that housing requires that they spend any of their government checks on rent instead of drugs. (SSI law requires that they spend their checks 1st on housing, 2nd on food, and 3rd on other living essentials but no one ever enforces those rules.) Addicts won't spend a night in a shelter if they cannot drink or get high while there. They won't go to the free Haymarket drug rehab program that the city offers each day.

Let me check: It is now 4:20 a.m. and the thermometer reads 26 degrees. Looking out my front window I see at least 8 intentionally homeless sleeping in Clarendon Park and at 750 West Montrose, the Columbus Maryville center. There are 3 operational shelters within within a few blocks of here. But, they will not go.

The bottom line is that these addicts could not generate the resouces be addicts without getting them provided to them. For elderly addicts, Govt Blago's free CTA-ride program for seniors is just another resource that allows them to be addicts. For younger addicts, the City of Chicago's free CTA passes for homeless program is just another resource that enables them to be addicts.

The Federal Govt, city, and State enable drug addiction that these street addicts could not afford without govt handouts.

There is not a whole lot the CTA can do. Their primary function is to transport people to and fro their destinations, not provide shelter.
Perhaps they can coordinate with shelters and churches, providing maps and directions of the various services that the institutions provide.
As an daily CTA commuter I do not like sharing a train car with someone who hasn't showered in quite sometime. As a human being, I understand why someone would be riding the train for shelter, especially in the winter months.
The real problem is with a lack of shelters for the growing number of homeless. As the economy worsens, the number of people seeking shelter on the CTA will increase.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on December 8, 2008 11:04 AM.

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