Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, is now plagued by homeless encampments — inside the terminals themselves.
Jessica Dubuar, director of health and specialty services for Haymarket Center’s O’Hare outreach program, admitted that her organization served 25% more people in 2022 than in 2021.
“Our January at O’Hare was one of the busiest Januarys we ever had,” Dubuar told BlockClubChicago. “We are seeing more individuals and more encounters [who are] new to our system.”
“I flew back to O’Hare, Terminal 3, last week. I had never seen such a homeless problem, in baggage, in the 50 years I have lived in Cook Co. It’s not even that cold out! Also, aggresively hit-up with ‘ya need a ride?’ in baggage. It was dystopian,” one person tweeted.
O’Hare Airport tweeted the same response to three different people who complained to the airport about the homelessness problem. Another person tweeted: “How are we now letting homeless into the airport waiting area?! It isn’t safe to have this happening when visitors or frequent fliers coming home are being now asked for money and help after getting our luggage. We need this to stop!”
A third tweeted a photo of the homeless people camped out at the airport, writing on February 12, “This picture of a homeless encampment was taken today at O’Hare @fly2ohare Terminal 1 baggage claim. Chicago needs better leadership.”
O’Hare Airport responded to all three, “We appreciate your feedback. Safety, security and an optimal passenger experience is top priority for the CDA, and we have forwarded your message along to our security team. We apologize for any inconvenience caused and hope your next visit to ORD is more enjoyable.”
We appreciate your feedback. Safety, security and an optimal passenger experience is top priority for the CDA, and we have forwarded your message along to our security team. We apologize for any inconvenience caused and hope your next visit to ORD is more enjoyable.
— O’Hare Intl. Airport (@fly2ohare) February 14, 2023
Another person snapped, “As someone who travels for work often, I do NOT feel safe walking from the parking garage to the terminal. So many homeless people all over the hallway and behind garbage cans. Why is this allowed? We are paying high $ for airfare, so we should have a safe walk!”
One woman who works overnights as a custodian told CBS News, “None of us feel safe.”
Her fellow worker added, “They will come up behind you; this one man followed us last night from the time we get here to the time we leave in the morning.” The women said their managers told them to be aware and call the police, but the women said the police informed them they could not intervene unless they were physically touched.
“They just tell us to be careful because it’s out of their hands,” one of the women concluded.