The city has taken up benches at the entrance to the city — around the Depot and the Chamber of Commerce — that had become a hangout for the homeless.
Two benches were removed from the cement at the Coast Transit Authority bus stop shelter. The bus stop is on the sidewalk at the Depot parking lot. City workers also took up two benches on the Chamber grounds, officials said, and one across Robinson Street from the parking lot.
In the summer, the city reset the hours for Marshall Park, across Washington Avenue from the CTA stop. They closed it at night in response to the homeless population spending the night there.
Alderman Chic Cody said the benches at the CTA were taken up to be refitted for bench dividers that would keep people from reclining on them.
“We put the dividers in there where people could sit down. People would lay across and there was no place for people to sit,” Cody said. “It’s a problem we have to address. I don’t know what the answer is. We’ve got to come up with some answers for people who can’t provide for themselves.”
He said the Marshall Park-Depot parking lot and chamber grounds are also a big festival area and that benches would just get in the way.
He said he believes the benches will be returned “eventually, once we get the dividers in and signs — no loitering, some kind of declaration you can enforce. It’s not supposed to be a place for people to hang out. It’s a bus stop.”
He said the benches can be tacked back into the cement at that time.
“Sometimes we move things back,” he said. He said it wasn’t the first time the benches have been taken out of the bus stop.
“We’re trying to make it so it’s not a loitering area, it’s a bus stop. The bus runs every 30 minutes.”
It actually runs every 90 minutes according to the CTA schedule.
The city received a number of complaints from downtown businesses that said people loitering in that area were panhandling and getting aggressive with customers.
Removing the benches from in front of the public library last year stopped some loitering but wasn’t a complete solution, city officials said.