CTA policy may kick homeless off trains, into the cold

With a long, cold winter ahead, advocates for the city’s homeless population are concerned that a new CTA policy could mean more homeless on the streets, without anywhere to turn.

Chicago Transit Authority workers recently put up new signs at many El stops prohibiting “continuous riders,” people who take a train to the end of the line and then turn around and take the next train in the other direction. City homeless advocates feel the new signs are aimed at Chicago’s homeless population, who often stay on trains on cold winter nights.

Ed Shurna, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, says he think the signs are ridiculous.

“They should take those signs down and find a way to take care of people, not punish people,” Sherna said yesterday. “These are people who are cold, these are people who are poor, these are people who are suffering already. Why slap them in the face?”

Mike Doyle, who writes the blog Chicago Carless, agrees with Shurna.

“Regular CTA customers know to expect a surge in overnight homeless riders during Chicago's harsh winter months," says Doyle, who also writes for the Huffington Post in Chicago. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who this ominous signage is aimed at."

Doyle says he made inquires with CTA about the policy, and says he was told it would be only selectively enforced. Station staff will consider a rider’s circumstances and decide on a case-by-case basis whether to kick a person off. CTA told Doyle that the ban is not aimed at the homeless, and the signs are just general customer service reminders.

The Daily News attempted to reach CTA officials, including President Rob Huberman and Carole Brown, the chairwoman of the CTA board of trustees, for comment yesterday, but a press spokeswoman said no one was available.

Doyle says CTA should rethink their policy, especially since many homeless shelters across Chicago are either full or closing. An emergency homeless shelter, the REST facility, used to be located near the end of the North side Red line Howard station, but the shelter recently closed due to financial problems.

“Nobody is saying that the homeless should be allowed to ride continuously,” Doyle says, “but there’s a wide leeway between letting them ride continuously and just throwing them off the train.”