Reviews from DePaul students said Rogers Park homeless would go to hotel
Brandon Dotson has been living in a tent in Touhy Park for a few months while waiting for more stable accommodation.
Then, earlier this week, he thought it was finally time to get out after flyers appeared telling homeless people in the park they would be moved to rooms at one of the swankiest hotels in Chicago.
“I was really excited. I packed my stuff yesterday and was ready to go,” Dotson said on Thursday. “We never got anything”
The 37-year-old South Side native said he was hopeful, but Dotson and the rest of the people staying at Touhy Park in the 7300 block of North Paulina Street quickly discovered the notice information, who claimed their right to stay in the park expired in five days and that they would be transferred to the Four Seasons hotel in Chicago, was fabricated by Sarah Lim, a 17-year-old freshman at DePaul University.
Lim, who is planning to run for mayor of Chicago, said she taped up the fake flyers so she could “get my name out there”.
By circulating the sheets, she also hoped to get publicity directly on her website. The site helps high school and college students to complete internships.
“I started the website last summer,” Lim said. “It was really hard to get more traffic, so I resorted to the publicity stunt.”
That was no consolation for Dotson, who is struggling to find housing, he said.
“I think I have a place to stay,” Dotson said. “I think I could get my life back together, but it’s not happening.”
Dotson said he was “sad” because he missed work to stay at Touhy Park in the Rogers Park neighborhood and wait for someone to come and take everyone to the hotel.
“I didn’t want to miss this opportunity,” Dotson said.
Lim, reached by phone late Thursday afternoon, said she meant no offense and was only looking for publicity.
“I have no hatred against homeless people,” said Lim, who said she came up with the idea last week because she knows the encampment is controversial. “People want something done about it,” Lim said of the homeless people living there.
“Yes, someone made these flyers and made them look like official five-day departure notices,” according to Ald. Maria Hadden, 49th, adding that her name was on the fake reviews.
Vance Allen, 55, is also a lifelong Chicago resident, having lived primarily on the city’s West Side, then Humboldt Park and now Touhy Park. He stays with his longtime girlfriend, Gina Guerra.
Allen said he didn’t agree with the notices because he felt that if Hadden wanted to make a statement, she would have come down to the park and handed them out to people herself.
The “one thing” Allen heard Hadden say during a post-controversy visit was that people staying at Touhy Park are always welcome there, “and that was it.”
“Next week there might be snow on the ground, and for people who don’t have a place to go, oh my god,” Allen said. “It’s Chicago. The weather is going to change. What then? I hope everyone has a place to go before the holidays.
Lim said she used duct tape to stick up the flyers in the park and no one saw or spoke to her while she was doing it.
“I realized now that a lot of people are offended by what I did and that was not my intention,” said Lim, who turns 18 next month and still plans to run for mayor. an idea she got from her teacher at DePaul. .
Lim said she plans to issue a public apology.
Hadden staff first learned of the stunt Tuesday, Hadden said, and found flyers on park benches, on neighbors’ porches and on the belongings of some Touhy Park residents.
Hadden said he removed the flyers, but confirmed that some people believed them and had already packed their bags. By late Tuesday, Hadden had contacted the Chicago Park District and the city’s legal department.
“On Wednesday it broke out on our (media) social and in our community chat groups. Yesterday (Wednesday) at noon I got a call saying people were posting them again,” Hadden said.
It was then that Hadden went to the park and talked to the people who lived there. “They were quite upset,” she said.
“A few people suspected it to be fake and a few thought it was real,” Hadden said.
“Whatever the intention, it was a very cruel act for all these people who were quite vulnerable and looking for housing,” Hadden said. Some are on waiting lists to be placed in homes.
As of Thursday afternoon, all “damage and misinformation has been corrected,” Hadden said.
“The legal department is looking into the matter,” Hadden said.
When Lim learned that Hadden thought the fake reviews were “cruel”, she said, “I think instead of trying to turn me into a criminal, Hadden should focus on the issues right now.”
Hadden, bewildered, said she didn’t know why anyone would do that. “You can’t make this stuff up,” Hadden said.
Bill Morton’s name was also on the flyer. Morton, president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce, has put out a bid for alderman for the 49th Ward.
Chamber Band’s Trudy Leong said she tried to reach Lim but so far had no luck on Thursday afternoon.
“We demand a public apology from Bill, the camp and the Four Seasons Hotel for the harm she has caused,” Leong said.
Leong wants to make it clear that “we had nothing to do with it.”
She and Bill Morton were blindsided by the news that Lim admitted to being responsible for the flyers, Leong said.
Last week, Lim reached out to Morton via Facebook asking for help with her mayoral campaign – developing petitions so she could get the signatures she needed to run for mayor. He agreed and they were going to meet her, but haven’t yet.
“We were going to help him,” Leong said.
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But on Tuesday notices went out to the encampment, which as of last week had about 41 tents, some of which housed two people.
Leong said he learned about the notices almost immediately, including when their Facebook community group started talking about them.
“I asked him to just admit his mistakes and do better in the future,” Leong said of a message she left for Lim.