And the only time the city gave tent residents much attention was last summer, when crews cleared out the Lawrence Avenue camp in advance of a Mumford & Sons concert at Montrose Beach.
But reports of fights, attacks, and crime in the tent villages are frequent—with stabbings, robbery, and intimidation of witnesses being reported to CWB Chicago editors repeatedly since last autumn.
Then, on Sunday night, a Lakeview man’s car-mounted GoPro caught a senseless attack on video.
A man is seen backing out of a tent under the Irving Park Road viaduct. Then, he launches a kick at someone inside as a car passes. Seconds later, the silhouette of someone raising their hands in defense is clearly visible as the man launches another kick. Then he peels his jacket off and stares into the tent.
Lakeview resident Ben Bruce’s dashboard-mounted GoPro captured the events as he exited Lake Shore Drive on his way home around 9:15PM.
“I caught a man brutally assaulting and stomping on the head of a homeless man,” Bruce said. He called 911 and reported that he had video of the incident.
Several other 911 callers reported seeing a man jump out of his car and begin “beating up the homeless people” under the Irving Park Road bridge, but Bruce says he did not see a vehicle.
Chicago police said officers were unable to find a victim when they arrived.
Bruce's video, posted to YouTube, shows a well-dressed man with a cane leaning against the south wall of the viaduct while the attack unfolds a short distance away. (We have enhanced and zoomed a segment of video HERE.)
"[The attacker] had no issue with the traffic passing him attacking this homeless man,” Bruce said.
Throughout the apparent attack, the well-dressed man continues to lean against the wall, looking back and forth.
Both men were last seen walking toward the lake, Bruce said.
“Regardless of his status in life [the victim] deserves justice just like any other citizen, and the thug who attacked him needs to be off the streets before he harms another person.”
“I normally run in to break things up but my girlfriend is terrified I'm going to get shot,” he said.
Claims of criminals targeting residents of the tent cities are rarely formalized with police reports, homeless advocates say.
But, CWB Chicago has received credible reports of stabbings and robberies of the lakefront’s homeless. Some of the alleged offenders—credibly identified to us by name—actually have homes, but they go to the lakefront specifically to target tent city residents.
Among the most frequently-mentioned perpetrators are two Latin Kings with long criminal records. CWB Chicago is withholding their names because they have not been charged with any crime against the homeless.
With warmer weather coming and the homeless camps sure to grow, we can only hope that the city will get its act together.