Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You Can Help! Wilson Mens Hotel In Housing Court

The Wilson Club Hotel will have its day in Housing Court on May 29th, downtown at the Daley Center. This is a chance to do something to help clean up this blight.

1. Court advocates are requested to attend! If you can take some time off, or schedule a break around the hearing, your presence will be appreciated and can make a difference. The judges in housing court really do appreciate and pay attention to community members who show up to express concern about conditions in their neighborhoods.

This is from Meg Gillman of Community Policing:

I just found out from Judy Dever, Chief Corporation Counsel of the Drug and Gang House Enforcement Section, that the Gang and Drug court case against the Wilson Men's Club is up on Thursday, 29 May at the Daley Center in Room 1111 at 9am. I plan to be there. Will you be able to attend as a court advocate? If you know of other community members who would like to participate, that would be great. Court advocates do not have to say anything, just show with their silent presence that they are very concerned. Judges know how busy the community is, so your presence will show that the building is a big problem. If you or others would like to give information to Judy Dever, please let me know.

2. If you've seen activity at the hotel, fill out a Gang & Drug House form, linked to the right.

Meg again: And please encourage other concerned neighbors to fill out the form and send it to me. I will forward it to Judy.

3. Join the 23rd District's Court Advocate Program. If you want to learn more about being a court advocate and the important role they play in the court system, please come to the James O'Connor Community Room, 3608 N Halsted, on May 6th at 6 pm. You can attend as many, or as few, cases as fit your schedule. Call 312-744-0064 (Officer Ron Tanaka) for more information.


  1. Does anyone know what happened to Lakefront SRO Corp.? They don't have a website anymore. They ran some decent SROs. Someone needs to step in and get the Wilson Mens Hotel to shape up if the housing court rules in the WMH management's favor.

  2. Does anyone know how long this would take? I can show up if it would only be a few hours. I think as many of us should show up as we can.

  3. In the times I've been to Housing Court, the longest is two hours, and usually closer to an hour. It depends how many other cases are on the docket and when the Wilson Mens Club is called.

    Seeing justice grind on can be excrutiatingly slow and frustrating, but there have been great results with other problem buildings. One judge always recorded the names of community members who showed up in the court records. Another time the property's attorney tried to get us barred from the courtroom because our presence was "prejudicial" against his clients. It's not exciting, but it is effective.

  4. How many times has WMH been to housing court before?

  5. I've never been to court for them before. Kind of looking forward to it. This place really needs cleaning up. Anyone else?

  6. Depending on my work load that week, I would be interested in attending. Could someone post a reminder closer to May 29, 2008?

  7. Is it possible this could lead to the end of this "hotel"? I don't want it repaired, I want it torn down! Its a trash dump that adds no social value to the community except housing drug users, pedophiles and prostitutes. We should try to get as many people there as possible. The 9 am start is tough but I may be able to make it. Getting rid of this eyesore would be a great 1st step to making our neighborhood safer.

  8. this is probably the biggest problem area closest to the Wilson RedLine stop, along with the lack of lighting and security..

  9. When it becomes more expensive than profitable to run the Wilson Mens Hotel, it'll go away. Right now it appears to be a cash cow for whoever owns it.

    It's the very lowest common denominator in "affordable housing," and gives the whole concept a black eye.

  10. Can someone please explain, or point to a good website, what exactly a court advocate is? I think I hae a good idea, but I just want to make sure.

    I am not a fan of the Wilson Men's Club and if there is something that I can do to help get rid of it, I would like to know. It sounds like this is my opportunity.

    I have heard stories that the ceilings are chicken wire, or something along those lines. Does anyone actually have pictures from the inside?

  11. From my post in March:

    Sean Derrig just sold this flea bag place in 9/07 for $3,450,000 to Jay Bomberg (Sean bought it in 1/98 for $1,550,000). That's one hell of a return on investment - especially when he put nothing into the place (that we can see).

    Now, Jay is charging $202 a month to 257 men, which is $51,914 a month! Wow! No wonder this place never gets shut down. Its a gold mine! Wonder how much of that goes to our alderman, since according to officials at a recent CAPS meeting, she is protecting the place from their numerous code violations? She's gotta be protecting the place for some reason.

  12. Alderman protecting the private interests of her financial supporters? What are you suggesting? Corruption? Couldn't be...

  13. What are the official charges against the Wilson Men's Club and what are the possible outcomes of the hearing?

  14. When you are a court advocate you make the judge understand that the community is serious about this case. It is done by having the community members sit as a group as a show of force in the seats just behind the City Counsel prosecutor.

    The judge gets the message that this is not a case to take lightly and that he/she should pay particular attention to what he is doing - all within the scope of the law, of course.

    Sometimes the judge asks why these people are here and the Police Department Court Advocacy leader introduces himself. You are not supposed to communicate to the judge unless spoken to.

    Other than that, your job is to hang out until the case is called and sit there together and act interested as it is being heard. Not much work but it can be time-consuming because for each court call time slot there are generally a series of cases and you have to hang around until yours is called.

    It is good to check whether you a allowed to bring any electronics into the court house or hearing room. It is no fun to show up with something in your pocket and hang to return it to your car to get the security guards to let you in. In some cases there are metal detectors you have to pass through.

    We should get Meg to get us that info for the Uptown Update posting.

  15. I know this is a little off topic... maybe... but there is a great documentary about one of NYC's last "flop-houses" from 2001. This is how I imagine the Wilson Club Hotel is on the inside... This is only in my imagination as I have never actually been in a men's only flop house. Here is the link: Its worth seeing if you like a good documentary. Does anyone know if the convicted sex offenders are still allowed to live there - right across the street from the head start program? I just read an old article on that issue but I could not find out if there was any resolution.

  16. just think how liable the city would be if a fire broke and people died because of the code violations and how much trouble the alderman would be in

  17. Convicted sex offenders are allowed to live there.

    First, there are no legal restrictions on where sex offenders who attacked adults live.

    Second, there are restrictions on where child sex offenders live but the State inteprets the law in a way that makes it inapplicable to the Truman Head Start and Cornerstone Day Care Centers.

    Under Illinois law 720 ILCS 5/11-9.4, it is unlawful for a child sex offender to knowingly reside within 500 feet of a playground, child care institution, day care center, part day child care facility, or a facility providing programs or services exclusively directed toward persons under 18 years of age.

    Here is how this law is being enforced. Because the Jesus People Cornerstone Day Care shares space with an adult shelter it is not an exclusive use facility or day care. Because the Head Start program across the street is in an adult use Truman College it is not an exclusive part day child facility.

    How the law gets enforced turns on how one reads the word exclusively - applying to just the last item "services" or to all items on the list. And it turns on how one reads the word facility - as just a place in a building or as the whole building the program operates in.

    So far the State requires that the whole building be exclusively used for child care before the law applies - but only on Wilson Avenue not necessarily elsewhere in the city.

    This is a ridiculous result that could easily be changed with a technical correction bill that defines these word clearly in the statute.

  18. I checked the Illinois Sex Offender database and it looks like only one sex offender of adults is living there.

    I also notice that there is now a child sex offender living at 1207 W. Leland (the Leland Hotel) at the other end of the block. That is the building the Lawrence Avenue TIF money rennovated and in which ONE got brand, spanking new offices.

  19. Lakefront SRO is now Mercy Lakefront Housing. They operate many, if not all of the SRO sites.

    I agree with posters who cite the condition of the Hotel and call for code enforcement. The owners must fulfill their obligations--civil, moral and legal--to be a better landlord and a better neighbor.

    However, calls to eliminate the Hotel and/or housing of this sort misses, I think, an important point. This strata of housing exists for a reason: it fulfills a real need.

    The number of "decent SROs" is limited and most have waiting lists. Individuals who use drugs or who are beset by a degree of mental disability that prevents employment cannot qualify for a space.

    Absent an alternative, should the hotel be shuttered today, there would be nowhere for its residents to go. For many men, the Wilson Club Hotel for Men is the last stop before homelessness or death.

    Like many posters, I'd like to see improvements made that benefit both the neighborhood and hotel residents. Bringing the building up to code and bringing in needed social services is a start.

    But turning these men onto the street and tearing the hotel down? That doesn't solve anything. It just pushes the problem somewhere else.

  20. Thanks, Suzanne, for illuminating some of the complexities of this issue. Homelessness is probably the next stop for many of the people who live in Wilson Club if it were to close.

    So, what is the best thing to do to house people who have the assorted problems that you mention? I think the best thing would be to start offering services right there in that building to help people get their lives together. Make WC transitional housing to get into transitional housing, I guess. Why are we only serving the easiest people to serve in this community?

    In any event, a good place to start is by making sure that the living conditions are more humane. That would certainly be the right thing to do for the residents' sense of dignity and for the surrounding community.

  21. Suzanne:

    We don't miss the point and we know why it exists. The point is the neighborhood is changing and we no longer want these types of housing units in our community. Affordable housing for law abiding citizens is great and we support the apartments/CHA housing that is properly managed and maintained (minus the drug dealers) but we don't want Uptown to continue to be the 1st stop for ex-cons, drug users, and the homeless.

  22. Unless we have a place and a plan for individuals who, by misfortune or misadventure, live on the left side of the curve, than we do indeed miss the point---you, me, all of us.

    Uptown may indeed be changing, but if we no longer accommodate the least of us, then all the talk celebrating diversity is just lip service.

    Does that mean the Wilson Club Hotel for Men should be exempt from code enforcement or be allowed to emit / encourage externalities that endanger or frighten others? Does it mean that we should facilitate drug use? Of course not.

    Anonymous says "we don't want these types of housing units in our community." Is it really the housing that's so problematic?

    This property and the clients it serves splices the private/public divide in complex ways. The social and legal issues are not tidy nor common. There are few models to reference for remedy or recourse.

    The alternatives Anonymous cites are ideal but not, in fact, real alternatives because they are not available in the numbers that are needed. So I am curious. Tell us, Anonymous, what specifically do you suggest we do with the individuals who live at the Wilson Club Hotel for Men and other people in similar circumstances?

    If not here, where?

  23. "If not here, where?"

    But why ALL here? Of course it's not "all" here, but your own question seems like an overly tidy response to a valid concern that the city is using Uptown as a dumping ground for society's castaways. The burden should be shared more equally.

    Also, if the Wilson Men's Hotel weren't such a dump and blight to the community, the calls for its demise wouldn't be nearly so loud. From the looks of it the owner is making a killing in despicable fashion. He needs to step up, make a little less profit, manage the building better and be a good neighbor.

  24. We never wanted that operation in our community ever. Wilson Hotel has been the one and only cubicle hotel allowed in Chicago for the past 15 years. Why the city allowed it to continue after the Paxton fire killed so many SRO residents on LaSalle street is a mystery.

    The Humane Society standards no longer allow dogs in kennels to live in cages separated only by wire, so why does the city of Chicago allow one housing provider to put humans in such living conditions? They used to say the original owner was grandfathered in (not necessarily true) but that excuse ended two ownership changes ago.

    Remember, the housing units inside this building consist of nothing more than wire cages with plywood sheets going up several feet and a flimsy wooden door and lock on each cage. My friend pulls the living and dead out of there for an ambulance crew and tells me that they can barely get the stretchers up the narrow wooden staircase even without a person on them. And, there is no air conditioning and poor cross ventilation.

    This has never been a safe housing situation. It's appeal is that it is super cheap and accepts everyone and everything.

  25. How is Jay Bomberg on the Uptown Business Partners Board of Directors? Isn't that counterproductive? There are so many vacant storefronts on Wilson and a good many of them can be linked to this place. Makes no sense.

  26. It's kind of funny that Bomberg is trying to rent to 7-11 in one of his properties and the main objection to 7-11 going in is the Wilson Club Hotel, another of his properties.

    I remember the Paxton Hotel fire in the early 90s. What a tragedy. Hearing about the conditions inside the Wilson Mens Club brings shivers and dread. What a bloodbath it would be if a similar fire ever started there.

    It's vile that this place is allowed to exist in its current condition. I welcome it going to Housing Court as many times as it takes to get it cleaned up.

  27. It's kind of funny that Bomberg is trying to rent to 7-11 in one of his properties and the main objection to 7-11 going in is the Wilson Club Hotel, another of his properties.

    That is what being an absentee landlord in Uptown is all about these days. You try to get your money coming-and-going although these guys also have the gall to stuff Shiller's pockets and participate in public rebukes of "the evil gentrifiers" while they do it. I don't know why more people aren't enraged and the business community isn't calling them out on it.

    While residents are getting kicked around, these landlords are literally "hedging" their properties and laughing all the way to the bank. Want another example? Howard Slater owns the apartment building directly adjacent to where Labor Ready proposes to go. Kids in that building go to McCutcheon School and the Boys & Girls Club. Because he is the owner of record, none of those families knew about what was happening at their doorstep.

    The strategy is: Sit in your suburban home with your golf course views and get 'em comin' and goin' until you can finally cash out of your Uptown holdings.

  28. I don't know how a human being can actually run this place and feel decent about themselves. They obviously have little respect for humanity.

  29. This is anonymous May 1, 2008 12:10and in reponse to Suzanne's comments:

    Anonymous says "we don't want these types of housing units in our community." Is it really the housing that's so problematic?

    By providing the housing, we encourage these individuals to continue their other activities such as drug use. I have seen the same people buying drugs on my street that I have later seen going into this building.
    If we were to get rid of their housing they may live on the streets or they may find somewhere else to live. We can't haul the people away but maybe we can get rid of their housing and as result they may leave Uptown (good riddance) so let's do what we can legally do to clean up our neighborhood. It may seem like I'm a cold hearted SOB but I care a lot more about me and my family then some drug user who doesn't want my help or anyone elses.

    Uptown has lots of shelters/soup kitchens/ and social service programs that these people can take advanatage of and I'm fine with people that want to improve their situation in life. The problem is the people that are drug addicts etc and don't want to change. The Wilson Mens Hotel allows them to continue in this lifestyle and that is simply unacceptable in a community with so many other options.

    Take away the buyers and maybe the gangs will follow.

  30. suzanne says...

    "Lakefront SRO is now Mercy Lakefront Housing. They operate many, if not all of the SRO sites."

    This is incorrect. There are several SRO operators on the north side, many of which do a much better job.

    suzanne says.....

    "The number of "decent SROs" is limited and most have waiting lists. Individuals who use drugs or who are beset by a degree of mental disability that prevents employment cannot qualify for a space."

    This is also incorrect. Several of Lakefront/Mercy Homes residents fit one or both of these categories. Lakefront SRO literature even states that many of their residents suffer from mental disabilities.

    It's an insulting arguement to say that there is no where else for them to go. There are good purveyors of SRO housing that do a much better job.

    The Wilson Men's Club is nothing more than a cash cow for it's owner, Bomberg Properties.

  31. I didn't say Mercy was the only SRO provider. I said, albeit with less than crystal clarity, that Mercy assumed many (most?) of the SRO sites previously operated by Lakefront.

    I also didn't say that there weren't other decent SROs; I simply said there are not enough of them.

    Many SROs do indeed have waiting lists and, yes, many have restrictions on who and who does not qualify. In terms of mental disabilities, it is a matter of degree—even at Mercy—and I noted this in my post.

    None of this is controversial.

    Anonymous says "It's an insulting argument to say that there is no where else for them to go."

    Identifying a scarcity of needed resources is insulting? Really?

    "There are good purveyors of SRO housing that do a much better job.

    Of course there are. That's not the issue. It's that there are not enough rooms to meet demand. Resistance to such a simple, quantifiable point seems peculiar.

    "The Wilson Men's Club is nothing more than a cash cow for it's owner, Bomberg Properties."

    Well, no, it is also home to indigent men with substance abuse and mental health issues who, if and when the Hotel closes, will need somewhere else to live.

    I'm moving off this thread but am happy to provide further clarification if needed. You can call me at 773-728-2822.

  32. Read my post. This is not an SRO. It has never met the minimum standards to be an SRO - not even the worst of the worst.

    It is a cubicle hotel, a housing type that has been banned in every other inch of Chicago for years. It is a discontinued housing type that falls below the bottom rung. I'm not even sure it survived the last Zoning Code revision. But the last one survives in Uptown.

    SRO's are a different subject.

  33. HUD News Release HUD No. 08-009:


    "More than 150 housing and service programs in Windy City to benefit from HUD funding."

    If this rat trap closes, $49 million dollars says that there will be somewhere else for these gentlemen to live a better life.

  34. It is pretty obnoxious to suggest that Uptwon cannot close one of the worst housing situations in the city because there is no room in it's 6000 low income housing units for these men.

    After all, the reason there is no room for Uptown residents to move into our own community's low income housing units is because the waiting lists are prioritized for the relocation of tenants out of Cabrini Green, etal.

    Thus, we build ém and Downtown, Lincoln Park, and Lakeview fill em with their relocations or the poor and disabled into our leper colony.

  35. The question that needs to be asked is, "Who at City Hall is funds this beast?"

    Check out the Chicago of Chicaago's website and pull down the 475 Ethics Ordinance List of Contractors, which discloses all city contractors receiving over $10,000 in city funds.

    In past months you will see A City Contractor Named Wilson Men’s Hotel 1325 Wilson LLC.


    The city rewards bad behavior handsomely to our community's detriment.

  36. I suggest we fight to get the property remodeled so that it is actually an SRO...meaning actual single rooms, some with private baths. We should also try to find social service agencies who are willing to run some programs out of the hotel.

    While I understand that some people want to see the place shuttered, that outcome is unlikely. If anyone is willing to get in the middle of that battle, then they should do so with a plan for where these men can go that is not a homeless shelter. Be realistic. No one talks about these issues outside of Uptown unless they are a paid to do it. It is not on the radar of anyone. Most people (politicians included) are perfectly content to ignore the problems and the issues and to do nothing.

    It would be great if we could work together as an ENTIRE community to develop solutions and then get financial support from outside in order to implement them. That is just not happening. I don't need to reiterate the reason why.

  37. Remember, the housing units inside this building consist of nothing more than wire cages with plywood sheets going up several feet and a flimsy wooden door and lock on each cage.

    Wow. I had no clue anything like this existed here. Sounds no better than a stall for an animal. I'm disgusted.

  38. I am taking time off to go to court on this one. Do we meet as a group at the courthouse??
    I don't see how anyone can't show up if for any other reason that the owner is a scum bag. The idea that this type of living situation exists in any neighborhood is beyond my comprehension.

  39. Everybody needs to realize that the Chicago Dept of Housing is behind all this. All these SRO's and low income housing providers can only exist with licenses and funding that run through the Housing Department.

    It is the Chicago Dept of Housing that insists -- demands --directs the placement and type of affordable housing in this - and every other community in the city. When the Dept of Housing wants more transitional family housing it demands that the providers expand or change their programs or lose their grants - as it did two years ago at the Salvation Army women's / children's center at Marine and Lawrence.

    So who holds the Dept of Housing responsible for bone head decisions and waste of affordable housing dollars - such as its decision to go forward with the Wilson Yard Holsten units even when each tiny unit will cost the Wilson TIF over $400,000 and every other goverment and private agency pulled out because the economics make no sense?

    Piss-Poor management in the Dept of Housing does no one any favors - neither the communities or the poor. The management needs to be held accountable for funding substandard housing conditions that do not meet city zoning and housing codes.

  40. Where can I find out more information about the specific reasons why the Club will be in court? I assume that there are drug and gang charges?

  41. I'd imagine the people mentioned in the story, Judy Dever and Margaret Gillman, would be your best bet.

  42. Call 23rd District Neighborhood Relations Office: 312-744-4247.

    Ask for Meg.

  43. Famous Shiller lies:

    "I've always said we needed development," Shiller said recently, "but it has to include the people who already live here."

    If those who already live here were getting the low income housing we keep building here, these Wilson Club longtimers still would not be living in cubicle hotel squalor 30 years later.

    Instead, local poor residents are manipulated into protesting for more low income housing that they have little or no chance of ever living in. They won't get in because it is wait-list prioritized for those persons relocating from tear-down CHA projects from other neighborhoods.

    Likewise, for our new senior housing, such as the Ruth Shriman building, citywide wait lists filled the building while our local residents remained unhoused.

    Source of Quote: Chicago Tribune; "Development Politics" bu John McCarron, Feb. 11, 1991, p 1.

  44. Excellent, point, Reality Chick. If there is a need for affordable housing in Uptown and we are willing to build it here, why don't Uptown constituents get to live there?

  45. New residents in the Wilson Yard development from outside the ward = new voters for Shiller. After all, she got them the'r new homes, they feel the owe her. They don't know what a crook she is.

  46. Regarding how this became a DGHES building......

    In general, it is not a specific incident that gets a building into this program. Rather, it is a pattern of criminal activity that continues that leads to the DGHES program. The owner is encouraged to take steps to eliminate the activities in a timely fashion.

    The hearing on the 29th at the Daley Center is the first step in this process. It may take several hearings to address all the problems but don't let that discourage you from attending. Your silent presence in the courtroom does make a difference.

  47. I was hoping Jay Bomberg would have made it to tonight's CAPS meeting. Well, he's never made one before so why bother now. I hope he' required to work with CAPS because his hotel is now in Drug & Gang House Enforcement.