Once targeted for demolition, Lincoln Square motel slated to be ‘stabilization housing’

A City Council committee OKs plan to buy the Diplomat Motel for $2.9 million and use its 40 rooms to help people with mental health and substance abuse issues.

SHARE Once targeted for demolition, Lincoln Square motel slated to be ‘stabilization housing’
The Diplomat Motel, 5230 N. Lincoln Ave.

The Diplomat Motel, 5230 N. Lincoln Ave., could serve as bridge housing, taking people from being unhoused to finding jobs, 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez said.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A Lincoln Avenue motel once known as a hot-pillow haven and targeted for demolition will be turned into “stabilization housing” for people with mental health and substance abuse issues, thanks to a plan to combat homelessness that could become a model for all 50 wards.

On Monday, the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate gave Mayor Brandon Johnson the go-ahead to acquire the Diplomat Motel, 5230 N. Lincoln Ave., for $2.9 million and turn its 40 rooms into supportive housing with a host of wrap-around service on site.

The plan is aimed at duplicating the nurturing, hotel-to-housing model that worked so well during the pandemic.

In March 2020, the Hotel Julian, 168 N. Michigan Ave., was one of four Chicago hotels owned by Oxford Capital Group that agreed to rent rooms to isolate patients who tested positive for COVID-19 or had been exposed to someone who tested positive. Besides joining a network of hotel rooms that eased the strain on overburdened hospitals, those hotels also helped single men with chronic health conditions make the transition to permanent housing, instead of cycling in and out of emergency rooms or jails.

That’s the model the Johnson administration wants to duplicate by acquiring the Diplomat, according to Matt Richards, deputy commissioner for behavioral health for the Department of Public Health. He projected the annual length of stay at three to six months.

“The stabilization housing pilot is intended, really, for folks that are cycling across our 911 system. Public safety services, homeless services and emergency departments in your wards. Typically, very high-need residents,” Richards told the housing committee.

“They can have their own housing unit in this project, with on-site primary care, psychiatry, substance use treatment, case management services, etc,” he said.

Many who stand to benefit from the nurturing, hotel-to-housing model “tend to get episodic care” now, Richards said.

“They’re at one emergency department one day. There’s a 911 call. There’s a different emergency department. But a team of people never get to really know that person — who they feel safe with, that they’ve developed trust with, that are able to deliver services, that are culturally responsive, linguistically responsive. That is the expectation of these service providers,” Richards said.

Those providers will be chosen after a request for proposals is issued, he said.

The 40 rooms fall far short of handling the hundreds of people who need supportive housing. Richards said the city will use a “data-driven approach to generate a list of people who meet the criteria,” then identify “community-based referral sites” to help find those individuals.

“We believe there’s 1,200 people that could benefit from this intervention, maybe more. So, the intention is not for this one pilot project. Our goal is to get to a few hundred people where we can try to make the case that it works,” Richards said. After that, “the next step would be to think about, how do you scale it?”

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) whose ward includes the Diplomat Motel in Lincoln Square, is already encouraging his colleagues to identify hotel sites in their wards.

“When you look at Chicago’s housing infrastructure, at best it can address the issues for 3,100 individuals. That’s not enough for the current existing unhoused population,” Vasquez said. And the immigrant situation “makes it even more untenable,” he said.

“Having a system where each person who is unhoused has the dignity of their own unit, the dignity of their own support system — that somebody is able to walk with them through their journey from where they currently are to finding housing in the long term — we can set a model that the rest of the city can adopt,” he said. “That creates what is, in effect, bridge housing, taking people from being unhoused to finding jobs.”

Too often, the only alternative for somebody living in a park, or in a tent beneath a viaduct, is “miles upon miles upon miles away from the neighborhood” they’re in, “so they won’t accept help,” Vasquez said.

With a smaller approach, like the Diplomat, “you can do satellite ones where, potentially, you could have one in each ward,” he added.

The Diplomat is along a stretch of Lincoln Avenue that served as primary route between Chicago, the north suburbs and Wisconsin before the Edens and Kennedy expressways opened.

Retired Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) at one point had tried to get all of the motels demolished, calling them havens for prostitution.

The Latest
Dos mujeres fueron trasladadas al Hospital Holy Cross con heridas no especificadas y se encontraban en buen estado, según las autoridades. Una tercera mujer fue trasladada al Hospital Mount Sinai, donde también se encontraba en buen estado, y un agente fue trasladado a un hospital del área con una herida “leve” en un pie. Una niña de 8 años fue atendida en el lugar de los hechos.
The city says Glock has been warned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about the gun’s design, “knows it could fix the problem, but has chosen not to, putting profits over public safety, and violating the law.”
Prickly as always, polarizing Reds star looks back at his career over four episodes of HBO docuseries.
He’s played 3,395 career snaps; all but 75 have been with him lined up outside either tackle.
A Cook County judge has been told by an appeals court to reconsider whether Kimberlynn Bolanos was mentally fit when she entered a guilty plea in 2016. At a hearing Tuesday, the judge made arrangements for yet another mental evaluation.