O'Hare Airport

Couple Stays at O'Hare, on CTA Trains as They Struggle to Find Home Amid Pandemic

NBCUniversal, Inc.

While many area residents are stuck at home, a couple who recently moved back to the Chicago-area is struggling to find one, as they say they’ve been living at O’Hare International Airport and on CTA Blue Line trains.

The couple, Linda Benavides and her husband Manuel, say they’ve been living at O’Hare since April 16. They had moved to El Salvador more than 10 years ago, getting by on her Chicago teachers’ pension, but they say that after facing threats from the MS-13 gang in the country, they were forced to return to Chicago in April.

Now, Linda says they’ve sought out shelters, but were told they would have to separate because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, and that’s not something she is willing to do.

“It’s hard. We’ve been from here and there,” she said. “We need help. We sleep on the chairs, but police tell us to leave, then we go to the second terminal. We eat from vending machines, or anything donated to us to eat.”

The couple says they’ve applied for Medicare and other assistance, and people who have learned about their story have stepped up to help, paying for hotel rooms at times and buying them food and water.

“We have about $20 or $30, and that’s it because I have to get our medicines,” Linda said. “I don’t want to leave him because he was injured.”

Linda hopes that Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and other lawmakers will give more attention to the growing problem of homelessness amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“They don’t understand because they’re not homeless,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’ve been calling shelters. They give me an SR number, and at 7 a.m. I call and by 8:30 they call me back and say ‘oh, we have no rooms available.’”

NBC 5 has reached out to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Chicago Department of Aviation for comment on this story, but has not heard back.

Contact Us