Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Where Is He Going To Put These People?"

Columnist Mark Brown of the Sun-Times has been doing a series of articles in response to Ald. Reilly and Cappleman's proposal to close down the only two remaining cubicle hotels in Chicago, throwbacks from an earlier era which are exempt from the required minimum standards for SROs and hotels.  In his first two articles, Brown focused on the Ewing Annex, downtown.  Today he takes aim at Uptown by visiting the Wilson Men's Club Hotel:
Ald. James Cappleman (46th) insists his determination to close the Wilson Men’s Hotel in Uptown, one of the city’s last two cubicle hotels, is based solely on his concern for the men who live there.

If he can just close the hotel, the alderman says, he can arrange for better housing for them than the substandard conditions in which they now live.

“My goal is to send a message that we as a city can’t allow our neighbors to live in cages,” Cappleman told me, referring to the wire ceilings that cover the rooms in cubicle hotels.

I dare Cappleman to try to sell that cock-and-bull story in a face-to-face meeting with the residents of the Wilson. He could start by explaining exactly where it is he’s going to move them.
More about the Wilson Men's Club can be found in an article in the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

Our real questions to Mark Brown are prompted by how he ends his article:
Before the recession, real estate in the neighborhood was starting to experience the same boom seen in Lake View. That’s poised to resume as the market recovers and will receive a boost from the CTA’s planned $230 million remodeling of the Uptown station, just a few doors down from the hotel.

I asked Cappleman if he’d worked to build any new single-room occupancy housing in his ward since taking office two years ago. The answer was no.
To use his own words, we dare Mark Brown to ask each of the other 49 aldermen, including his own (if he even lives in Chicago), what work they've done to develop new SRO housing in their wards. We will bet that the answer from each and every one of them is "nothing."

And that leads us to ask why it's always presumed to be Uptown's role to house Chicago's indigent.  Why is Uptown alone considered the default when it comes to providing services for the most vulnerable Chicagoans?

Given that he says in the preceding paragraph that real estate is poised to boom in Uptown, doesn't it make sense to build new SROs in communities where real estate is cheap rather than one where prices are starting to rise?  (Incidentally, the owner of the Wilson Men's Club seems to agree.)

Seems to us that Mark Brown is satisfied to see the indigent remain in substandard housing in Uptown and the Loop rather than asking why new SROs aren't getting built in other neighborhoods, possibly including his own.  There are 77 official community areas in Chicago and 50 wards.  It's a big city.

Perhaps he should entertain the possibility that it's not just Uptown that can provide services and housing to men and women who need a safety net, and certainly not in conditions to which most of us wouldn't subject our family pets.

The entire article is here.


  1. Doesn't Mark Brown live in Oak Park? If so, does anybody really value these kinds of lectures from a white flight suburbanite?

  2. I don't think anyone wants to see the indigent continue to live in substandard housing. And it seems this matter resolution is simple. Simply go in, rehab floor by floor, not all at once....move the men to a temporary shelter / housing and then move them back into the rehabbed redesigned "hotel" which should be rebuilt as a SRO, like the one managed by Mercy on Sheridan. That SRO does very well. It's a non-profit.
    Have house rules like that one does.
    I don't want to see anymore "bum" people out in the street begging. Indigent people need housing and living in Chicago has become so high, so unreasonable, that even I am considering moving out in the next 1-2 years.

  3. I am so happy this place is going to close. Mark Brown blows anyway.

  4. Housing should be determined by supply and demand, not subsidies and government proposals. If there is a better use for this building, so be it. We are finally seeing extreme areas of subsidy (Cabrini/Uptown) give way to more market efficient uses. Why should someone paying <$400 a month live next to someone paying 5X that if that is what the market demands. People pay for conveniences in their neighborhood (transportation, parks, schools, retail, etc.). Why subsidize people into areas that are so far out of their market and with no way to become successful in that area. How many people from Cabrini were commuting into the loop for work, or shopping in the gold coast, or eating in River North?

  5. I was born and raised in Uptown. As a child, when Reagan took funding away from providing for the disabled and challenged people of our diverse community, I saw an increase in homelessness. To the point of "one eyed Joe" dying from heat exhaustion during a summer in the 90's". He slept on benches and relied on neighbors to feed and clothe him. The bigger issue in Uptown is the gentrification that is happening without social regard to its long time occupants. This is their home, too. If the Alderman was really concerned, he should focus on solving the problems not creating more. Inevitably, these people will be roaming the streets. They live in this housing for very particular reasons. Remodel and stop displacing for the benefit of "upgrading" a neighborhood and neighbors that have lived here for over 40 years! Shame on you, Alderman!

  6. His biography. Looks like he lives in Oak Park, it says he has a soft spot for the homeless and his wife works for a non-profit

  7. What's lost in this is that we have had new housing developed in Uptown during the 20 years prior to Alderman Cappleman taking office. Housing that public funds were used for like the facility on Leland and Racine that a private developer was forced to contribute to after using TIF funds to develop the former Goldblatt's building (in a different ward, mind you). Why weren't these men relocated there?
    Why isn't the privately owned Wilson Men's Club exempt from meeting housing codes? Why did they fly under the radar all this time?
    The owner was a big campaign contributor to the former Alderman. This "hotel" is a profitable venture. Why isn't he fixing it up?
    It's not the public's position to pay for this, but it is the role of government to protect its citizens.

  8. We can argue ad nauseum about market rate v. subsidized and the well being of the community. Wilson Men's Club is a hell-hole, a notch above living on the streets. Clearly that so called living environment needs to change. We know it- no one will debate that, but the question still remains, "Where is he going to put these people?" No one wants them on the streets - whether you care about them as people or think of them as a nuisance.

  9. @alluneedisluv. Again, why should affordable housing be readily available in every neighborhood. Uptown is a small area in the scheme of the greater Chicagoland. There is no opportunity available in the proximity of uptown (besides maybe access to certain gangs, heroin and crack) that is not in other parts of the city or suburbs. Why should affordable housing be forced into a neighborhoods where it doesn't belong, it should be allocated to the most affordable place for the government and developers, while still allowing it's residents to get to a job....this is not uptown, not Lincoln park, not Lakeview, not river north.

  10. Lianna, who is going to pay for the rehab? The people living there most likely can't. There is enough subsidized housing in this area for it to come from public funds.

  11. Assuming it costs X dollars per square foot to provide housing for the poor in Uptown, doesn't it make sense that the same amount of money would provide more space and more privacy and more dignity in an area where cost per square foot is much lower?

  12. Another false controversy. Our city's aldermen are not real estate agents or apartment hunters. They are not responsible to find their constituents places to live. For those who are concerned, volunteer your time and help these residents find more suitable housing where the alcohol is cheap and drugs are plentiful, so they can spend the whole day intoxicated waiting for "their" checks to come from the government and relieve themselves in our alleys. Mark Brown has to generate something to justify his paycheck. The home in Oak Park speaks for itself.

  13. @alluneedisluv- I am not sure your point is valid anymore-Uptown has changed alot since 1990-We need to advance as a community-As for the Mens Hotel-I do fell for these people but we need to find them better service and a better location-this place is a home for drug selling and violence.

  14. This statement from the Sun Times article:
    I asked Cappleman if he’d worked to build any new single-room occupancy housing in his ward since taking office two years ago. The answer was no.
    I don't understand why that would be Alderman Cappleman's responsibility. I am a resident of the 48th ward and like the 46th ward, we are already innudated with SRO's. Why do we need to build more of them when this type of housing is already concentrated in this area.

  15. LOL Laughing so hard at Uptown Updates defensive response to this article. Are you posting stuff for us to read and decide what we think or are you telling us what to think? Get off Cappleman's nuts already.

    Hell hath no fury like a yuppie who expected to make a killing in real estate in "the next hot neighborhood," only to find himself stuck in a neighborhood full of poor people after the market crashed.

    At least most commenters are being honest with themselves now and simply admitting they don't give a rat's ass about these people, they just want them out of sight, out of mind.

  16. I would submit, Chitown..., that the defensive tone you point out is a reaction to the blatantly offensive e.g. "I dare...cock and bull" tone of the Sun Times editorial? commentary? certainly not news piece. Those of us who have known James for more than an election cycle or two know his integrity.

  17. ChiTownPhilly is a 20 something skateboarder living in tax free housing, I believe with JPUSA, taking advantage of tax free and taxpayer funded medical, etc etc. When he bothers to become a productive part of society and gives as much as he takes, and grows up a bit, then I will take his rantings a bit more seriously. Until then, I just kind of chuckle at his sanctimonious statments as he suckles at the teat of the taxpayer while bitching about same..

  18. Okay, look. I've had a glass of wine, so I am going to vent here a little.

    1) I am not a liberal.

    2) JPUSA is actually a pretty good organization. They have done a lot of good. I know there are a lot of wackos and they have a strange past and sometimes I hate listening to their whining liberal Bullshit but I believe they have a place in our community.

    3) James is right about the Wilson Men's Hotel. No matter what Mark "The Douche" Brown says. James' response on the Sun-Times Website was awesome. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story Mr. Brown. James is an educated person who knows his shit. People who are less educated don't understand, and of course, a lack of education leads to fear. Accusations that he doesn't care or understand are bullshit.

    4) Calling people out on a neighborhood blog is bullshit.

    5) I think i may go out and meet IP and get drunk....

  19. Anyway, just to follow-up here, but there is a middle ground here somewhere. I guess that is my point.

  20. Jason/Irish-like Pirate,

    Mark Brown ain't a "douche". You, sir are an "douche" of epic proportions and don't even realize it. Which confirms your doucheiness.

    Now I don't agree with Brown's take on this, but he and Phil Kadner from the Southtown spend more time writing about homeless issues than any other prominent local writers.

    It's an issue he cares deeply for.

    Chicken wire hotels need to be a thing of the past.

    As for JPUSA and their various local charities I've made the contempt I feel for them and their non leadership clear. I look forward to the day when like chicken wire hotels they are a thing of the past.

    As for you drinking with me it ain't gonna happen. I don't drink six packs of douchewieser beer or whatever drek you partake in.

    Now if you will excuse me I'm posting from a strategically located restaurant down from the Music Box Theater. The last movie of their 70mm festival is about to start.

    I need to put on my pretentious beret and start the 70mm experience. It's even partially in the French language.

    I feel so haughty.

  21. How about letting the free market decide if these places should exist? NO ONE is being forced to live at the Wilson Men's Club. No one. People are choosing to live there. Must be a reason. If things were so bad, too insufferable, as the alderman seems to believe, people wouldn't choose to live there. And if people had better options that they could afford, I would think they would choose the better options. People choose to live at the Wilson Men's Club because they cannot afford any better options (same reason many people chose to rent or to buy a condo in Uptown, because they couldn't afford to buy or rent in better neighborhoods where they would have prefered to live, you know, neighborhoods without places like the men's club).

    Two facts:

    1. Shut Wilson Men's club down and many of the people living there will end up homeless.

    2. The conditions at the Wilson Men's Club while bad are still much better than conditions in any homeless shelter or on the streets.

    My opinion is that Cappleman knows both of these facts but that he is more interested in the further social cleansing of his ward of people living in poverty than he is in the fate of the Wilson Men's Club residents.

  22. What an embarassment, the alderman is conducting this all wrong, I will never vote for him again.

  23. People bent on low standards for Uptown won't be happy about Cappleman's stance, despite his repeated words that these men will get help to live somewhere else that's better. I guess they believe that poor people don't deserve a decent place to live. That's too bad.

    At last, the tide has turned and we're hearing for the first time that poor people in Uptown deserve better living conditions. It's about time.

  24. I have lived in Uptown since moving to Chicago 5 years ago. I love just about everything about this neighborhood, including the cultural diversity, proximity to the lakefront, and affordable housing.
    What I don't love is the number of indigents, drug addicts and crazy people wandering the streets at all hours of the day. I can't walk two blocks to the grocery store without being panhandled or encountering someone ranting and raving to no one in particular on a street corner. I'm not heartless, but I also don't subscribe to the opinion that people who contribute nothing to society are entitled to live wherever they want. Hell, I'm a hardworking member of society and I'm not entitled to live where I want. I'm entitled to live where I can afford to pay my mortgage, and right now, that's Uptown.
    I was thrilled beyond words when Somerset Place closed down. It meant I would no longer have to FEAR FOR MY SAFETY every time I walked by the building and encountered all the nut jobs and crackheads wandering freely in front of the building. No one should have to share their neighborhood with residents who pose a potential threat to everyone's safety, and I'm not going to feel guilty for celebrating their relocation. I work too hard to be a productive, contributing member of this neighborhood and society in general to just allow my neighborhood to be overrun with those who contribute nothing to anyone but drug dealers and liquor stores. I pay the highest taxes in the country to provide social services for those less fortunate. It's time that money was used to actually help people instead of just dumping them in Uptown at hovels like the Wilson Men's Club, which is providing help to NO ONE.
    You want to live in my neighborhood? You better earn that right and find a way to contribute something positive. If your only purpose in life is to drink yourself to death and piss in the alleys, then I couldn't care less what happens to you, I just don't want it happening in Uptown.

  25. MAXLOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Jon said "ChiTownPhilly is a 20 something skateboarder living in tax free housing, I believe with JPUSA, taking advantage of tax free and taxpayer funded medical, etc etc. When he bothers to become a productive part of society and gives as much as he takes, and grows up a bit, then I will take his rantings a bit more seriously. Until then, I just kind of chuckle at his sanctimonious statments as he suckles at the teat of the taxpayer while bitching about same."

    AGAIN,I AM ROFL *falls out of chair* LOL

    Jon, if you really want to know something about me, just ask. I own my own property and am a full-time researcher for a successful trade publication serving construction professionals. I pay lots of taxes and contribute just as much as you probably do kind sir.

    It's funny that anyone that seems to give a rat's ass about other human beings must immediately be a sanctimonius welfare recipient. LOL, still laughing at that one. Thanks for the Friday laughs pal. I have to get back to work now.

  26. Hey Jon, one more thing.

    What's wrong with skateboarders? I'm almost 30 and looking damn good because of these nefarious activity.


  27. ChiTownPhilly, we get it, you like to laugh a lot and find other people's opinions VERY funny. You can cool it with the LOL's...

  28. Let me see if I understand some of what is/has happened. All of this done or in the process by our alderman, proclaiming himself as a former social worker with a Master Plan for the ward. Force the closure of a homeless men's program of approximately 65 men in the name of safety for the other occupants of the faculty. Close the Chateau Hotel because of the squalid unsafe conditions, freeing them to the welcoming embrace of homelessness in the dead of winter in Chicago. Seeking the closure of the 2 remaining vestiges of the skid row era. This being done without first relocating them to housing he claims is available if they had the means to seek it out.
    The city and state are broke and the first thing that goes is the funds for these programs to help those that are less fortunate than most. Not to excuse that some of the problems were created by their own making but also reminding us that many of those in Uptown in need were abandoned there by the closure of facilities such as Reid Mental Hospital by the state. Now the state cuts or eliminates much of the support they claimed would be available to them in lew of the housing they had.

    Now there are no more SRO's available for them to go to because none have been built to replace those that were lost to gentrification in Uptown. At every turn subsidized housing is fought claiming that there is too much here already.

    Why are homeless shelters filled to capacity? This being the case, where are the hundreds of these people that our alderman claims to be helping going to go? Please excuse my sarcasm here. Perhaps they can be sent to the same place in Indiana that he sent the pigeons he tried to protect us from!

  29. Cowboy Up, nothing like ignoring the facts. Chateau was not closed by the Alderman, it was sold by the owner, because it is private property, because it was not even close to being up to code. The fact that, like Wilson Mens Hotel, it is a magnet for drugs and violence apparently means nothing to you and your friends. Children in Uptown apparently are not an important enough constituency to worry about. You know, our kids that walk by drug deals, duck when bullets are flying, see prostitutes working the streets... it amazes me that people only are willing to see one side of a story. If my building is not up to code, it gets fined and the option to follow the law. I guess the whole 'law' thing is arbitrary as well unless they are ones you want followed....

    .. get off your high horse and pay attention to facts moving forward. I know, they are kind of inconvenient to the arguement of those advocating keeping these horrible places open..

  30. USH... NO where did I advocate keeping these places open. My whole point was that the occupants are not considered in the process. Regardless of any consideration as to where they may end up be it the street or a homeless shelter (which will only lead to more moaning and complaining) they should have been helped by the kind compassionate EX social worker / alderman, (sarcasm intended). Everyone in the ward is a constituent. Regardless of the amount of money or self worth. I am tired and appalled at the total disregard for the lowest among us by the NIMBY group of people who comment here. Get things fixed by advocating for them not against them. Our alderman claims to be fighting for them. Relegating them to the trashheap or the streets is not fighting for them.

  31. I cannot even read all the comments so.... this is just IMHO.
    I had to call the Mayors office about a homeless guy living behind a dumpster while it was - (that's negative) 20 degrees wind chill this winter. I didn't want him to die.
    This argument seems to center around "substandard housing" which I think is a joke. At least it's housing.
    As someone who doesn't know what to do if I lost my apartment, I say let "substandard housing" survive. Instead of closing them, advertise them so those of us who might end up on the streets know we have options.
    (The lesson Chicago has taught me is that being homeless is not your fault. A series of circumstances can lead you to this state of being and it's not all drugs and alcohol.)

  32. Cowboy, again, you chose to ignore facts. Chateau was a PRIVATELY OWNED building. You ignore my comments on children, who are truly the most vulnerable in our community, you think sarcastic remarks cover your lack of what many in the community are advocating for and I do NOT see You or ANY of the others complaining on here bitching about the other 49 Alderman and asking them what THEIR ward is willing to do to help... Cappleman is not our Lord and Saviour and, as such, is doing what those of us that voted for him asked... clean up the drugs and crime and prostitutes and shootings and public urination and the dehumanizing of the rest of the Ward that follows the law.

    Democracy, its the new black. Embrace it..