The city has returned the benches to the CTA bus stop downtown, but they now have metal dividers in place designed to keep people from sleeping on them.
Mayor Connie Moran ordered those benches reinstalled, as well as others at the entrance of the city, including the ones at the L&N Depot and the Chamber of Commerce parking lot area. She has also asked city workers to return the benches to the front of the public library after they were removed almost a year ago to dissuade the homeless from spending time there.
The Public Works Department will be returning benches over the next few days.
Even though city officials say the benches were removed before fall festivals, they also explained that reconfiguring the seats with dividers was part of the plan all along, so the homeless or anyone else could not recline on them.
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Moran said she realizes removing the benches did nothing to improve the situation and there was a public outcry when the Sun Herald reported the benches were gone on Monday.
Moran said the benches were removed in late September. She did not order them taken away — an alderman did.
“I didn’t realize they had been gone that long. I said, ‘Go ahead and put them back,’ on Tuesday,” she said. “It hasn’t kept the homeless from being downtown. It was a non-solution.”
The city has been wrestling with the issue of homeless living in Marshall Park and sleeping on benches at the entrance to the city near the popular downtown shopping area. The city has limited the hours the city park is open.
Moran has held meetings with homeless coalitions and churches to address the issue, but the city has suffered another setback with the announcement the Living Well Ministry day center for the homeless has been closed because its building was sold.