CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — People who are homeless have less options after the city started enforcing a public nuisance abatement.
The city says they’ve found needles, trash, and furniture clogging up the walkways under the viaducts and it’s becoming a health and safety hazard.
Notices were posted on Monday at the viaducts and other areas, like the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, to let people know about the changes. Code enforcement workers went around to talk to people about the abatement law.
Julie Molck sleeps under the viaduct on Logan Street. It’s difficult for her to pick up and move all her belongings when she has nowhere else to go. Her world shifted when she left an abusive relationship. She could no longer afford her apartment and now she’s homeless.
Molck says, “To top it all off I had family take money from me. So now the home that I could’ve had, I might not be able to get now.” She says thousands of dollars were stolen, leaving her here with just a pillow to sleep on and a cart full of the only things she can call her own.
There are many others who set up their belongings under the Champaign viaducts. But the city has noticed a problem: Furniture and garbage is clogging up the sidewalk.
Compliance Manager Tim Spear says, “It’s not just trash, there are bodily fluids, needles have been left behind, those issues have been coming up and it’s becoming a public health issue.”
Spear made his way through the city to tell people about the public nuisance abatement law Monday afternoon. He says, “We’re not telling them they can’t stay here. But they can’t they can’t leave unattended property here.”
Molk says, from her perspective, the problem is bigger than mattresses blocking the walkways. “We need shelters for the homeless, for people who don’t have money to pay $600 in rent.” There could be less of an issue if there was a year-round homeless shelter, but that doesn’t exist in Champaign.
C-U at Home outreach program has been driving people to other cities to stay at their shelters. Director Rob Dalhaus says,”It’s a resource that’s needed. So many of our friends who don’t have a place to go will either end up on the streets, in emergency rooms, or the jails.”
C-U at Home is working to create a permanent shelter. But it’ll take time to get the money and support to make it a reality. Meanwhile, people like Molck have to live a reality she never imagined. She says, “People would walk by us and say look at those homeless people, they can’t find somewhere else to sleep, like we were somebody’s trash or something. We’re not trash we just don’t have the same cards that everybody else is dealt.”
The city says it’s also had an issue at the viaduct on Springfield Avenue. That can’t be cleared yet because the property belongs to the railroad company. As soon as the city gets the company’s permission they will enforce the abatement in that area as well.