Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dwindling SRO Housing

Before anyone tries to catch me on my ignorance or inexperience, I will go ahead and save you the trouble – I will be the first to admit that just two years ago I was completely naive to the housing struggles in Chicago. Of course, I knew that there was a strong homeless population; I walked passed people in need on a daily basis. What I didn’t know was that majority of the people experiencing homelessness were not the people on the street asking for money, but were people that resided in interim housing facilities (similar to LPCS), on friend’s couches, or in their cars. People who experience homelessness often have jobs that are not sustainable or also have college degrees. It also took the last few years to show me that not everyone I hesitated to give money to was actually going to spend it on alcohol or drugs.

Being a volunteer with LPCS taught me what the real face of homelessness looks like and that there are solutions to homelessness if people are given the opportunities to overcome barriers. Being a staff member with LPCS taught me that the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

A true testament to LPCS is how strongly they believe in the mission, which states that we will bring our community together to empower homeless men and women to make life changes. People here do not just fight to end homelessness for the Guests that are staying with us, but they fight for individuals all across the city.

I could spend all day singing the praises of LPCS, but instead I just want to share some of the things that are going on in Chicago that you may not be aware of (I certainly would not have been aware of these things two years ago).

SRO, Single Room Occupant, housing is intended for people threatened with homelessness as a vital low-income housing resource. It is because of the existence of SRO housing that many people are able to avoid falling into homelessness, that people can make money while living in a stable home, and people are also often offered life changing services that can help those in need. SRO housing is currently being threatened by city leaders, by the owners of the buildings, and by people in the neighborhoods.

The Abbot Hotel in Wrigleyville is one such place. There are some laws that attempt to protect tenants; however, people are finding ways around these regulations. “They have shut off the heat and water, disabled the fire sprinklers, tore out the shared bathrooms and generally left the entire interior of the building in rubble — without waiting for the evictions to run their course” (Brown, Suntimes).

The Chateau Hotel on the north-side of Chicago is facing a similar fate. “…now that the Chateau has been sold and will be gutted and rehabbed, residents fear it will be reopened as higher-end studio apartments like other former SROs in the neighborhood” (Cottrell, ChicagoNow). Residents of the Chateau state that they do not mind the state of the amenities because they are in a safe location with a diverse neighborhood; remove the Chateau, you will subsequently remove their safety and their housing options as well.

In 2008 there were 106 licensed SROs. Today, there are 81. How many will be remaining in the next few years? And where will the people, with already limited income or other barriers keeping them from housing elsewhere, go when they are put out?

I have been given an entirely new appreciation of homelessness in the last two years. I also have a new appreciation for the steps that lead to homelessness, and more often than I once knew, it can be entirely prevented by people like me taking a stand. It is not a cliché to fight against building owners selling out or city officials making decisions for the wrong reasons, it is entirely our reality.

Want to get involved? Visit the Lakeview Action Coalition’s website and see what you can do to help.

By: Meghan Freebeck

1 comment:

Gilaad said...

Great post Meghan.