Travelers walk through United's Terminal 1 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI |
Feb. 18 (UPI) --
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city is taking steps to remove homeless people who have been sleeping in O'Hare International Airport, calling their presence a risk to security.
Lightfoot on Thursday responded to complaints from Council Council Alderman Raymond Lopez, frequent Lightfoot critic, about the homeless situation at the airport.
"We have taken and will continue to take the steps that are necessary to move people out of the airports," Lightfoot
"We absolutely fundamentally cannot have people sleeping in our airports who are homeless. That is unacceptable," she said. "We are going to continue, within the bounds of the law, to do what is necessary to provide those folks with support but elsewhere. They can't be in our airports."
The issue came to the fore when Lopez
on a Fox News segment earlier in the week, and by Friday, homeless people sheltering in the airport were mostly gone,
Airport cleaning staff told the broadcaster that they had been harassed and made to feel unsafe by some of the homeless who had sheltered at the airport.
"Mayor Lightfoot made clear Thursday that all City of Chicago agencies must continue to work together and provide services to unsheltered individuals at Chicago's airports," the Chicago Department of Aviation said in a statement.
"While it is not illegal to be homeless in this city, it is trespassing to be at O'Hare or Midway without any airport business."
The situation has caused backlash from all sides as critics of Lightfoot -- who is currently facing a
tough reelection bid
-- have said she has not gone far enough to combat homelessness in Chicago, while others demanded more humane treatment for those who had sheltered at the airport.
Airport officials addressed such tensions
in a statement
on Twitter on Thursday.
"O'Hare International Airport continues to make significant investments in homelessness services at the nation's second busiest airport to ensure round-the-clock outreach and mental health services are available to the airport's unsheltered population," the statement reads.
"During this challenging time, the O'Hare community thanks these social workers and the Department of Family and Support Services for their service, and we also thank our first responders from Chicago Police and Chicago Fire Department who are working to support the response."