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Homeless encampments have overrun crime riddled Chicago‘s O’Hare International Airport terminal with some concerned for their safety as images of people sleeping in exits and filthy makeshift shelters continue to emerge.

Thousands of people sleeping rough have sought refuge at the popular thoroughfare with many making makeshift shelters within the terminal where commuters frequent.

Passengers travelling through the terminal were quick to snap the deteriorating situation with one Twitter user posting a photo of several people sleeping among a throng of belongings near Terminal 1 of the airport.

O’Hare’s growing problem is just a snapshot of a citywide homelessness crisis bubbling under the surface of city decaying from soaring crime rates.

Homeless encampments have overrun crime riddled Chicago's O'Hare International Airport with some concerned for their safety as images of people sleeping in exits and filthy makeshift shelters continue to emerge

Homeless encampments have overrun crime riddled Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport with some concerned for their safety as images of people sleeping in exits and filthy makeshift shelters continue to emerge

Thousands of people sleeping rough have sought refuge at the popular thoroughfare where an average of 2,520 passengers travel each day, according to a study between 2000 and 2020

Thousands of people sleeping rough have sought refuge at the popular thoroughfare where an average of 2,520 passengers travel each day, according to a study between 2000 and 2020

Passengers travelling through the terminal were quick to snap the deteriorating situation

Passengers travelling through the terminal were quick to snap the deteriorating situation

With a picture of one such encampment, one Twitter user questioned the city’s leadership but was promptly responded to by airport officials. 

O’Hare said: ‘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.’

One user called the scenes at the airport ‘dystopian’ detailing their uncomfortable experience. 

‘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,’ they wrote.

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‘It’s not even that cold out! Also, aggresively hit-up with ‘ya need a ride?’ in baggage. It was dystopian.’

In what appears to be a copy and pasted answer, O’Hare Airport responded with a similar mantra thanking the customer for their feedback – with no solutions offered.

Haymarket Center’s O’Hare outreach program which connects homeless people staying at the airport with substance abuse counseling, housing and other social services told Block Club Chicago that they’re seeing numbers soar. 

The organization said they served 25 percent more people in 2022 than in the previous year, and that increased need has continued into 2023.

‘Our January at O’Hare was one of the busiest Januarys we ever had,’ Jessica Dubuar, director of health and specialty services, told the outlet.

‘We are seeing more individuals and more encounters [who are] new to our system.’

The nonprofit, funded by the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Department of Family Support Services, is open 24/7 but does not have sleeping capacity.

According to the city’s annual Point In Time count – which assesses sheltered and unsheltered people – recorded 3,875 people experiencing homelessness in 2022. 

The majority of those identified as black, the data shows.

A man lays isolated on the floor of the airport earlier this month in pictures taken by commuters walking through O'Hare

A man lays isolated on the floor of the airport earlier this month in pictures taken by commuters walking through O’Hare 

The issue has been prolific for years, this photo from 2020 shows one homeless man lying by the front entrance - a passenger captioning the photo: 'don't know if he's dead'

The issue has been prolific for years, this photo from 2020 shows one homeless man lying by the front entrance – a passenger captioning the photo: ‘don’t know if he’s dead’

Two employees who work overnight hours as custodians in Terminal 1 and 2 at O'Hare told CBS News that they are concerned for their safety

Two employees who work overnight hours as custodians in Terminal 1 and 2 at O’Hare told CBS News that they are concerned for their safety

According to the city's data collection which assesses sheltered and unsheltered people - 3,875 people were recorded experiencing homelessness in 2022

According to the city’s data collection which assesses sheltered and unsheltered people – 3,875 people were recorded experiencing homelessness in 2022

There has also been a 12 percent increase in people living outside and a 20 percent increase in people temporarily staying with others since 2019

There has also been a 12 percent increase in people living outside and a 20 percent increase in people temporarily staying with others since 2019

According to data from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless about 65,611 Chicagoans experienced homelessness in 2020. 

There has also been a 12 percent increase in people living outside and a 20 percent increase in people temporarily staying with others since 2019.

The roughly 16,000 people living rough are also more susceptible to dying from cold exposure during the winter.

There were four reported deaths from cold exposure in the city in 2020, seven in 2021 and four in 2022, according to data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Many traveling through the airport have described their shock online, while other’s have spoken to their safety fears. 

‘Flew out of @fly2ohare in January. I was shocked by how many homeless there were!’ one Twitter user said.

Another quipped: ‘I can’t even park for longer than 5 seconds to pick my family up from that airport and yet someone lives there.’

One person who travels for work often wrote: ‘As someone who travels for work often, I do NOT feel safe walking from the parking garage to the terminal.’

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‘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!’

While one user wondered whether this was affecting visitors to the city: ‘What an utter disgrace. No wonder we can’t get our tourism numbers back up @PeteButtigieg @chicagosmayor.’

In a post to Facebook with pictures of a number of homeless people sleeping within the terminal one user called upon Chicago’s Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. 

‘This is what’s going on in O’Hare International Airport,’ they wrote. 

‘I find it very strange that when someone important comes to the airport police k-9 and other security officials are putting the homeless people out.

‘Lori Lightfoot this needs to be addressed these people need help and all the workers of O’Hare airport needs [sic] to feel safe this is sad and you are a sad mayor y’all only care about y’all self.’

In what appears to be a copy and pasted answer, O'Hare Airport responded with a similar mantra thanking customers for their feedback - with no solutions offered

In what appears to be a copy and pasted answer, O’Hare Airport responded with a similar mantra thanking customers for their feedback – with no solutions offered

Two employees who work overnight hours as custodians in Terminal 1 and 2 at O’Hare told CBS News that they are concerned for their safety.

‘It’s out of control. None of us feel safe,’ Vonkisha Chatman told the outlet.

‘They will come up behind you, this one man followed us,’ Catherine Thompson.

‘From the time we get here until the time we leave in the morning, they will be here.’



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