Brandon Dotson has been living in a tent in Touhy Park for several months, waiting for a more stable apartment.
Then earlier this week he thought it was finally time to leave after leaflets appeared informing people in the park experiencing homelessness that they would be moved to rooms in one of Chicago’s most fashionable hotels.
“I was really excited. Yesterday I packed my things and was ready to go, ”Dotson said on Thursday. “We never got anything.”
The 37-year-old South Side resident said he had hopes for him, but Dotson and the rest of the people at Touhy Park in Block 7300 on North Paulina Street soon learned of information on advertisements claiming they were entitled to Park Stay was expiring in five days, and the fact that they will be moved to the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, came up with Sarah Lim, a 17-year-old freshman at DePaul University.
Lim, who plans to run for mayor of Chicago, said she recorded fake leaflets to “expose my name.”
By distributing the spreadsheets, she also hoped to get publicity directly on her website. The website helps high school and university students to complete their internships.
“I started the website last summer,” Lim said. “It was really hard to get more traffic, so I resorted to a publicity stunt.”
That was no consolation, he said, for Dotson, who is having trouble finding a place to live.
“I think I have somewhere to stay,” said Dotson. “I think I could put my life in order, but it doesn’t.”
Dotson said he was “sad” because he had left work to stay at Touhy Park in the Rogers Park neighborhood and wait for someone to come and pick everyone up at the hotel.
“I didn’t want to miss this opportunity,” said Dotson.
Lim, contacted by phone late Thursday afternoon, said she had no intention of offending anyone and was only seeking publicity.
“I don’t hate homeless people,” said Lim, who said she had the idea last week because she knows the camp is controversial. “People want to do something about it,” Lim said of the homeless people who live there.
“Yes, someone made these flyers and made them look like official five-day leave notices,” according to councilor Maria Hadden, 49, adding that her name was mentioned on the fake classifieds.
Vance Allen, 55, is also a Chicago resident who lived mostly in the west of the city, then in Humboldt Park and now in Touhy Park. He lives with his longtime girlfriend Gina Guerra.
Allen said he hadn’t bought the notices because he felt that if Hadden wanted to make a statement, she would have come down to the park and handed it to the people herself.
The “only thing” Allen heard from Hadden during his visit after the controversy was that people at Touha Park are still welcome “and that was it.”
“There might be snow on the ground next week, and for people with nowhere else to go, oh my God,” Allen said. This is Chicago. The weather will change. Then what? I hope everyone has somewhere to go before Christmas. “
Lim said she used the tape to stick the flyers to the park and no one there saw her or talked to her while she was doing it.
“I have now realized that a lot of people are offended by what I did and it was not my intention,” said Lim, who turns 18 next month and is still planning to run for mayor. DePaul, where she is a freshman.
Lim said she was planning a public apology.
Hadden’s staff first learned of the stunt on Tuesday, Hadden said, and found leaflets on park benches, on neighbors’ porches, and on the belongings of some people living in Touha Park.
Hadden said they removed the leaflets but confirmed that some believed it and had already packed it. At the end of Tuesday’s day, Hadden contacted the Chicago Park District and the city’s legal department.
“It broke on our social media and our community newsgroups on Wednesday. Yesterday (Wednesday) at noon I got a call saying people are posting them again, ”Hadden said.
Then Hadden went out to the park and talked to the people who lived there. “They were very nervous,” she said.
“A few people suspected it was false and a few believed it was true,” Hadden said
“Regardless of the intention, it was a very cruel act for all those people who are quite vulnerable and looking for a place to live,” 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 takes care of it,” Hadden said.
When Lim was told that Hadden considered fake notifications “cruel,” she said, “I think instead of trying to turn me into a criminal, Hadden should now focus on the problems.”
Confused, Hadden said he had no idea why anyone would do this. “You can’t make it up,” Hadden said.
The name of Bill Morton was also on the flyer. Morton, president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce, launched a bit for a 24th ward councilor.
Trudy Leong from the group said she had tried to reach Lim but had so far been unsuccessful since Thursday afternoon.
“We are asking her to apologize publicly to Bill, the campsite and the Four Seasons Hotel for the harm she has caused,” Leong said.
Leong wants it to be clear that “we have nothing to do with this.”
She and Bill Morton were surprised to learn that Lim had pleaded guilty to the flyers, Leong said.
Last week, Lim contacted Morton via Facebook asking him to help with her mayoral campaign – drafting the petition so she could get the signatures she needed to apply to the mayor. He agreed and they were going to meet her, but not yet.
“We wanted to help her,” said Leong.
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But on Tuesday, announcements were made to the campsite, which has had around 41 tents since last week, some of which have two people living in them.
Leong said they found out about the notifications almost immediately, including when their Facebook group started talking about it.
“I asked her to just admit her mistakes and do better in the future,” Leong said of the message she left for Lima.
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