US: ‘Dystopian’ Homeless Camps Take Over America’s Busiest Airport

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has turned into a sprawling, “dystopian” encampment for the Windy City’s rising homeless population — sparking serious safety concerns among staff and passengers, who say they’ve been followed and harassed. Shocking photos show filthy makeshift shelters set up inside the major travel hub’s terminals. One photo even shows a vagrant collapsed and asleep inside a terminal vestibule.

“It’s out of control. None of us feel safe,” Vonkisha Chatman, a custodian who works the overnight shift in Terminal 1 and 2, told CBS News. Chatman said she and her co-workers have been harassed by the unwelcome guests, who leave litter behind and trash the bathrooms. “They will come up behind you. This one man followed us last night,” another airport worker, Catherine Thompson, told the news outlet. “From the time we get here until the time we leave in the morning, they will be here.” The two women said their supervisors tell them to call police, but they claim cops told them they can’t intervene unless the workers are physically touched.

One Twitter user posted photographs of a homeless man sprawled on the floor in Terminal 2 — and called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to address the problem. “@chicagosmayor please clean up this city! This is the current state of O’hare airport, homeless everywhere, sleeping all over terminal 2 and getting in peoples faces yelling,” the concerned citizen wrote earlier this month. “This is the first impression people get when they land in this city,” she added.

Another fed-up traveller shared a startling image of several homeless people camped barefoot among their belongings and litter between a glass door and an escalator.

Jessica Dubuar with Haymarket Center, which serves the homeless at the airport, told CBS News that the numbers are increasing year to year. In 2022, Haymarket encountered 618 new homeless people at the airport — up 53 percent from the 431 they saw a year earlier, according to the report. Asked why the homeless are sleeping at O’Hare and not going to shelters, Dubuar said: “They’re full. The shelters are full.”

About 65,611 city residents experienced homelessness in 2020, according to a 2022 report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Mary Tarullo, associate director of policy and strategy, told Block Club Chicago.

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