Lake Forest wrestles with how to deal with homeless man; ‘He has not committed any … disturbances of any kind’

Lake Forest wrestles with how to deal with homeless man; ‘He has not committed any ... disturbances of any kind’

A homeless man living near Lake Forest’s central business district is drawing the attention of some residents, with city officials saying he is not anything doing illegal.

For the last several weeks, a bearded individual thought to be in his 20s or 30s has been staying amid a small group of trees near a busy city intersection, according to police.

While the circumstances may be unusual for Lake Forest, the man is within his rights to live in the trees, according to police.

“He has not committed any crimes or committed any disturbances of any kind,” Deputy Police Chief Michael Lange said. “Like the majority of people who are homeless, he keeps to himself.”

Lange added the police department has a full-time social worker who approached the homeless man.

“We went and talked with him, and offered him a variety of community resources available,” Lange said. “He respectfully declined all help.”

Whether the man will stay in the spot once temperatures start to drop is unknown.

“Like a lot of homeless people, some of them use the Lake County PADS shelters,” Lange said. “There are a number of homeless that do move south to avoid the cold weather. We don’t know what he is going to do.”

However, the person’s presence led to some public comment at the Sept. 5 City Council meeting.

Kristin Strom asked that the city do something about it.

“We want to prevent horrible things from happening here,” she said.

“It starts out innocent, but it could elevate to another level,” added another resident Taylor Cottam.

A Lake Forest resident was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct following an Aug. 27 confrontation with the homeless man, according to the Lake County state’s attorney’s office.

However, city officials are saying there is not much Lake Forest can do under state law that provides rights to the homeless.

“The city is aware of and understands the rights that have been provided by state statute through the Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act and will ensure that its actions comply with state law,” City Attorney Julie Tappendorf wrote in an email.

City Manager Jason Wicha said at the Sept. 5 meeting city staff has heard the concerns of residents regarding the situation, and the city is discouraging people from giving money to the homeless, believing that is not the right course to take.

“Most of our efforts have centered around getting long-term assistance for those that are in need,” Wicha said.

As for the immediate future, Lange said police continue to monitor the situation.

“There will be some periodic check-ins,” Lange said. “But it is not something we want to do every day.”

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