Thursday, March 14, 2013

Protecting the Safety Net to Prevent Homelessness


LPCS Staff, Guests, Graduates, and Volunteers recently attended a press conference and rally in support of the tenants of the Chateau Hotel, who are facing eviction and displacement.


Last Thursday, I had the privilege to speak out against an injustice happening in our neighborhood, in the hopes of preventing over 70 low-income people from becoming homeless, right here in our backyard.

The Chateau Hotel is one of the last remaining “SRO” hotels on the north side. SRO stands for single room occupancy. Usually, these buildings rent small rooms, without kitchens and with or without private bathrooms, at very affordable rates by the day, week, or month.

The Chateau Hotel, and others like it, provides a critical safety net for people who have very low income. Although the rooms are small, the rent is affordable, and it gives residents access to the vibrant network of resources in our community. It also gives residents the dignity of their own personal space to call “home.” The importance of that should never be underestimated.

The Chateau has a troubled past; run for years by a disengaged landlord, it fell into disrepair and racked up tens of thousands of dollars in fines in the City’s building court. The Chateau, however, was recently sold, and just last week the major maintenance issues within the Chateau have been resolved. However, the new owner has announced his intent to renovate the building and increase rental rates by 60%. In the meantime, its current tenants are being displaced from their homes with nowhere to go, and won’t be able to afford to return when the building reopens.

Advocates at Lakeview Action Coalition, of which LPCS is a member, see this as an opportunity to improve the living conditions of the building, while preserving its affordability. We need to call on our elected officials, including north side Aldermen and the Mayor, to make a commitment to preserving this critical safety net housing. This has been done successfully over and over again; formerly run-down SRO hotels have been rehabbed and reopened as well-managed, affordable housing. Check out the BelRay Apartments, the Diplomat Hotel, and Harvest Commons for a few examples. These buildings provide real solutions to homelessness, and directly benefit LPCS Guests. A number of LPCS Graduates live at the BelRay, and one LPCS Guest has plans to move into Harvest Commons as soon as the paperwork is approved!

Every night, there are over 6,500 people in Chicago who are homeless. If they are lucky, they are one of 5,300 people who have room or a bed at a temporary shelter, one like the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. However, that leaves over 1,200 people each night who are living on someone’s couch, in an abandoned building or a car, riding the trains, or even sleeping in the parks.

We can’t afford more homelessness in our city or our community. The system is already at capacity, and overloaded. Many shelters, including LPCS, have long waiting lists to get in. Once homeless, it is very difficult to regain your footing, and a long and complicated journey out of homelessness. The more barriers you have, such as a disability, inconsistent work history, criminal record, or eviction history, the harder it is, and the more at risk you are of falling through the cracks completely. One of the best ways to address homelessness in our city is to prevent it from happening when at all possible.

The residents of the Chateau are in danger of becoming homeless, a tragedy that can be avoided.
We also call on the owner to stop displacing tenants immediately. We call on Ald. James Cappleman and Mayor Emanuel to work with us to secure a commitment from the new owner to stop displacing our neighbors here at the Chateau and preserve the building as affordable SRO housing. The Alderman has the power to drop the fines that have accrued, if and only if the building can be preserved and improved for our neighbors who rely on it as an affordable home.


--Erin Ryan, Executive Director

Read more about the Chateau Hotel and our efforts to save it here and here.
Find out more about Lakeview Action Coalition.

Note: As a community-based agency serving people who have often been disenfranchised, LPCS takes its role as an advocate seriously. We are members of Lakeview Action Coalition, and as such LPCS staff members, Guests, and Graduates stay involved in systems issues such as affordable housing, access to health care, and livable wage employment. If you are interested in getting involved in one of these issues, including the preservation of housing like the Chateau Hotel, please feel free to contact me at eryan@lpcsonline.org.

1 comment:

Tony Princ said...

I sent a message to the alderman expressing our support for the Chelsea Hotel remaining and SRO.
Tony Princ
Alternative Gifts International