Homeless Encampments Take Over Chicago’s Airport, Prompting Safety Concerns

WBBM-TV reported that homeless encampments made of sticks have taken over Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. This has prompted staff and travelers alike to raise safety concerns.

Vonkisha Chatman, and Catherine Thompson, are the overnight airport custodians. They say they are frequently harassed by homeless people camping in the airport. The city was asked to address this growing problem.

Employees shared horrifying photos of homeless people sleeping on airport heater vents and littering the public toilets. The custodians said that they were responsible for cleaning up the mess.

Chatman declared, “It’s out of control.”

The women claimed that security personnel does not always work overnight at the terminals.

“They will come up behind you. This one man followed us last night,” Thompson said. “From the time we get here until the time we leave in the morning, they will be here.”

Managers were notified that safety concerns had been raised by custodians. They were instructed to remain alert and to call the police.

Chatman said that “they just tell us to take care because it’s not in their hands.”

The Haymarket Center, a rehabilitation center that serves Chicago’s homeless community, reported encountering 618 new homeless people residing inside O’Hare in 2022 – a 53% increase from 2021 when the center encountered a total of 431 individuals.

Jessica Dubuar, Haymarket Center Assistant Clinical director explained that Chicago’s designated shelters have become overcrowded and do not have enough beds to accommodate the growing number of homeless people.

Dubuar stated that “a lot of people don’t end up at the airport because it’s their goal.” “This is their last option.”

Concerned citizens took to Twitter and voiced their dismay at the airport’s purchase.

“I flew back from O’Hare Terminal 3 last week. In the 50 years that I’ve lived in Cook Co, I have never seen such a homeless problem in baggage. It’s not that cold outside! You can also get aggressively slapped with the phrase “ya need a ride?” in baggage. It was dystopian,” one Twitter user wrote.

They set off a smoke bomb and took over the bathrooms. Another user tweeted that they are not only ‘unhoused’. “This is the first thing people see when they arrive in Ohare.”

The Chicago Department of Aviation issued a statement to address the airport’s homeless encampments.