A room at the Inn: The Milshire Hotel

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El Concejal Scott Waguespack en la marcha “Logan Square para Todos”. Foto cortesia de Amelia Orozco

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen owner Art Fischoff announced that he would be closing the 78-unit Milshire Hotel in April of this year, it led to protests and court hearings. In September, some of those residents received relocation assistance through a tenants’ union settlement. The tenants who were not part of the settlement are still in the building. Soon, they will have to leave too.

Milshire tenants, like those of many single room occupancy (SRO) hotels, are usually transient and trying to get off the street, even if it is means paying for a room one day or a week at a time. For many, an SRO is their first attempt at that, even if it means sharing a bathroom with several tenants.

On the one hand, people would like to see the Milshire, a place supposedly infested with bed bugs and roaches, demolished to make room for something more upscale for the burgeoning hipster neighborhood lined with sidewalk cafes. Developer Mark Fishman is in line to purchase the property to do just that. On the other hand, Renaissance Social Services Inc. is also willing to buy it, but has plans to convert it into supportive housing, which would include 35 apartments, each with its own bathroom, and on-site social services for tenants.

A couple of weeks ago, a “Logan Square for All” rally was held to call attention to this housing issue. The groups who organized it, among them Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance, Somos Logan Square and others, have their finger on the pulse of the housing issues in Logan Square.

Advocates spoke from the eagle statue at Logan Square Park, among them was 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, who spoke on the efforts of community organizations to call attention to the housing insecurity issue and the imposed gentrification of the neighborhood. A group of three individuals, who appeared to be homeless, sat nearby with their carts bulging with their belongings. It is possible their fate could change if a certain city ordinance goes into effect.

In September, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and a group of aldermen discussed the proposed “Single-Room Occupancy and Residential Hotel Preservation Ordinance,” or the “Chicago for All Ordinance.” Although the City Council still has the ordinance under advisement, it proposes to make at least 20 percent of SRO buildings into affordable housing or their owners would pay a fine, which would go directly to fund supportive housing development in Chicago.

Pastor Bruce Ray of Kimball Avenue Church, a strong advocate for the homeless, told EXTRA that the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance, a group of churches responsible for organizing a vigil for Mr. Garcia and the rally at the Milshire, continues to meet on this issue and work toward really making it a “Logan Square for All.” The Logan Square Neighborhood Association is circulating a petition for signatures asking the community to support the rehabbing of the Milshire into affordable, supportive housing, which is available online at http://bit.ly/Milshire.

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