Another emergency building closure puts tenants on the brink

SHARE Another emergency building closure puts tenants on the brink
SHARE Another emergency building closure puts tenants on the brink

The residents of7270 S. South Shore Driveare presently without heat, often find themselves with no running water and generally recognize they live in a place that’s unsafe.

Yet, when a Cook County judge last week ordered the five-story apartment building vacated by this coming Monday because of fire-safety issues, those residents were caught off guard and unprepared.

Now they are in the middle of the panicked, painful search for new housing of which you have seen me write so often, the prospect of homelessness staring some of them in the face.

So let me say this one more time. There has to be a better way.

OPINION

Residents of the building, a former nursing home converted into single-room-occupancy-style housing with shared bathrooms, say they first received notice from their landlord Feb. 23 that they had 30 days to vacate.

But four days later, they received a new notice from the city informing them they must be out of their apartments by March 9.

That resulted in calls for help to the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, which convened a meeting over the weekend of 50 residents, who include senior citizens, veterans and even a few families with children.

At the very least, the residents would like more time to move, which is why another call was placed to me to see if there’s some way to slow this train down.

“I’d like to get out of this building, but I don’t want to have to be evicted,” said Darryl Simmons, 59, who has lived there nearly three years and just finished running through his unemployment benefits.

As is normal in these situations, nobody really tried to consult with the tenants about what was happening until all the decisions about closing the building had been made.

“That communication piece is missing,” said Aisha Truss-Miller, a Metropolitan Tenants Organization organizer who has become accustomed to the frustrating scenario of tenants being the last to learn of their fate when the city moves to close a building after sending in the inspectors.

There is no argument that 7270 S. South Shore has become what we euphemistically call a problem building.

“The building is just being turned into a revolving door for crackheads and squatters,” said Simmons. “As we say in the hood, the freaks come out at night.”

But in the rush to close it down, “good people are getting caught up in the mix, too,” he said.

Simmons said the property was well maintained and mostly populated with veterans when he first moved in, but went downhill after that.

It sounds like the old story — nobody should have to live that way, but if you’re living that way, it’s usually because you don’t have a lot of options.

“The building got away from him, and one thing led to another,” Simmons said, referring to the live-in building manager, known only to me as Bob.

Countered Bob: “Some of them were living here rent-free. They won’t tell you that.”

Bob blamed the closure on the city and referred me to a lawyer for the owners.

Tenants tell me rooms in the building rent for $450 to $500 a month. Cash only.

At the city’s request, Judge George Scully Jr. appointed a receiver to oversee the emergency closure and ordered $800 relocation assistance payments to the tenants. Truss-Miller said the organization will seek to increase the relocation assistance.The building is owned by Middleway LLC.

Shirley Adair, 36, who moved into the building last April, said she relies on a space heater to heat her apartment.

When I asked her what she plans to do now, Adair said, “I don’t know. Just put it in God’s hands. That’s all I can do.”

All I can do is write a story and hope somebody with more clout than these tenants stops to consider the difficulty for anyone of finding a new home and moving in a week.

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