Are CTA Trains Designated Homeless Shelters?

Mike Doyle's on a crusade to stop harassment of the homeless. What form does this harassment take? The CTA has posted signs, and intends to enforce, riding guidelines that say you have to exit the terminal at the end of the line. Meaning, you can't ride back and forth on the trains all day long. Mike indicates that this is an attempt by the CTA to kick the homeless out into the cold. And at Christmas, no less!

Actually, what they've done is reinforce the point of the el: it's to get people from point A to point B. What this highlights is that the el is not a homeless shelter. If we need more/better shelter for the homeless (and I don't doubt that we do), then that's the problem we need to fix. Not to try to misuse (or allow the misuse of) public transit infrastructure to store the less fortunate. It's a poor fit, and everybody loses.

I think the CTA is right, and Mike Doyle is wrong. And it's a bummer to see Mike's once-excellent Chicago Carless blog reduced to a one-note trumpet of hysteria-- seven of his nine most recent posts are on this issue.

What does the CTA have to say about this? From today's Sun Times:

"While our trains may serve as temporary shelters, they're not good shelters for anyone," said [CTA President Ron] Huberman. "We're going to try to make sure individuals who are homeless who are on our system can at least have access to people who can help them find safe, more comfortable housing."

Gaffney said 229 people were taken from the CTA to "appropriate facilities" by outreach workers in the last year.

But this is a small part of the thousands who are removed from trains for "continuous riding."

The article also states that the CTA also partners with the city's Department of Human Services, which works with the mental health services provider Thresholds. Outreach workers have 24-hour access to the CTA, and they enter the trains looking for people who need help.

Mike may have a point if he means to say that signage on the CTA isn't going to solve the homeless problem. I just don't think the signage, or enforcement of this policy, hurts people, or the homeless, and it appropriately reflects what the el system is actually for.

Nothing to see here, move along.


Samantha Hensch said...

The Seattle buses downtown are the same way...they are free for most of the day in a large part of the city, and they end up being moving shelters.

While I agree that we need a better system for homeless people, I don't think transit is the solution. Transit is meant to get people from here to there.

Al Iverson said...

Yeah, exactly!