Chicago Sun-Times letter to the editor: Make decent housing a priority

To the Editor:

I want to thank Mark Brown for bringing to light the current situation with the “cubicle hotels” — the Ewing Annex Hotel and the Wilson Men’s Club, and I applaud the work of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless on this issue.

Ald. James Cappleman’s (46th) response, reported by Fran Spielman on Feb. 27, is truly horrifying. Everyone in our city deserves a safe, affordable place to live. The alderman has done nothing to ensure that these buildings are healthy environments, or to offer supportive services to help residents achieve their full potential. Instead, the alderman is hiding behind a middle-class idea of what is “acceptable” for human beings, which is absurd, and refuses to name a better place for people to go. In overcrowded shelters, people will have even less personal space and will be sharing even fewer toilets and showers. On the streets, they won’t have access to these at all.

As Ed Shurna says in this article, there is a reason that people make hotels home — sometimes for years. The dignity of your own personal space, no matter how small, is one that should be preserved. The alderman’s credential as a “social worker” to further legitimize his statements makes all of this even more appalling. There is an affordable housing crisis in Chicago, and we need an alderman, not a social worker, to start leading to way to deal with this. The actions we need from the alderman include pushing for further financial supports, working with the owners of affordable housing to develop strategies to improve and preserve these buildings, and working with the community to develop more options for affordability in his rapidly gentrifying 46th Ward.

Instead of making real efforts to improve these buildings, Ald. Cappleman has made real efforts to close them down completely, including the Wilson Men’s Club. We at Lakeview Action Coalition have attempted to work with him to preserve and improve the Chateau Hotel, another 138-unit building for low-income people in his ward. Instead of working with us, he has had a hand in the current plans to vacate that building, putting its residents at risk of homelessness.

We hope that Ald. Cappleman will stop blaming groups attempting to keep people out of homelessness, like the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and start working with the City Council and the mayor to make decent affordable housing a well-funded priority in Chicago.

Erin Ryan, president, Lakeview Action Coalition