Concerns expressed about cleanliness of Jefferson Park CTA terminal, where warming shelters could be closed for several more months
by BRIAN NADIG
Residents at the Aug. 31 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association expressed concerns about the cleanliness of the CTA terminal at 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., where two warming shelters have been closed since early March due to vandalism and may not reopen for several more months.
Some association members complained about problems of human and pigeon waste at the terminal.
Some community groups and civic leaders have called for a public restroom at the terminal, but the CTA has opposed the idea.
“It’s filthy,” a resident said, while another said that her teenage son runs through the terminal in order to avoid to the “stench” when he is catching the train. Some residents recommended frequent power washing at the terminal.
There also are locations in the terminal where homeless individuals live and store their belongings, with debris and garbage collecting in those areas, including in or near the terminal’s warming shelters.
The shelters, which include decorative panels designed by artist Jamie Pawlus, have been boarded up since March after a panel in each shelter was vandalized.
“The damaged artwork on the warming centers at the Jefferson Park Blue Line station is currently in fabrication. The shelters will be open once the repairs are completed—which at this time, we anticipate the earliest being sometime this fall, possibly later this year,” the CTA said in a statement.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said at the meeting that responsibility for maintenance and addressing other issues at the terminal rest on the shoulders of several city agencies and that his office would look into the matter. “It’s all of us,” he said when asked which agencies.
“Both the Jefferson Park Blue Line station and its bus terminal are cleaned daily, while also undergoing routine power washing every few weeks. This facility will be power washed in the coming days,” the transit agency media department said.
The terminal was power washed on Saturday, Sept. 3, although the area near one of the shelters was not cleaned due to a stack of belongings and debris.
The CTA workers reportedly avoid areas where the homeless are living unless a police offer is present to ask the individual to relocate. However, on Wednesday, Sept. 7, a person, possibly a volunteer outreach worker, was seen cleaning the area where the man has been living for months.
There was a brief discussion at the association’s meeting on the general homelessness issues.
A resident said that homelessness is a “big” nationwide problem and that getting homeless individuals to accept help is a challenge. “(They) don’t want to go to a shelter,” he said.
“It’s a complicated issue,” Gardiner said.
On the issue, the CTA said, “CTA recognizes that homelessness is a larger societal issue, that sometimes can impact the customer experience on trains and buses. We are committed to addressing the issue in a compassionate and respectful way, while also providing a safe and comfortable travel experience for all riders.
“Similar to other transit agencies across the country confronting the issue of homelessness, CTA partners with the city of Chicago and local social service agencies to bring their expertise and assistance to CTA. The city has established partnerships with local social service providers, including the Night Ministry, which perform outreach on CTA to provide individuals experiencing homelessness with other options and access to social services, medical care and additional assistance.
“And under the recently unveiled “Meeting the Moment” Action Plan, we are looking to build on these existing efforts with a focus on to prioritizing both city and state outreach on CTA properties, as well as expand engagements with social service organizations, which may include a pilot to better connect social service providers with those on our system experiencing mental health or drug abuse issues.”
A representative of the Jefferson Park Working Group on Homelessness said that an update on the group’s activities would be given at a JPNA meeting this fall.
The association’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in the lower level of the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St.