Residents ordered to vacate Diplomat tomorrow

The clock is ticking as residents of the Diplomat hotel try to find a place to stay before the city vacates their home tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Many residents of the single room occupancy building in Lakeview are still looking for a new apartment, says Jennifer Gonzalez, executive director at the Lakeview Action Coalition, a community group that's been advocating for tenants.

She says some have found a place but she worries that others won't.

"If you don’t have a room tomorrow, you’re going to be going to a shelter basically," says Gonzales. "Many people are still struggling. There's no affordable housing in this neighborhood."

The city chose not to renew owner Jack Gore's occupancy license in February due to a lengthy list of outstanding building violations at the Diplomat, including fire code violations, rodents, pests and electrical problems.

On March 3, Judge Ann Houser gave residents 21 days to find a new place to live before the building is vacated.

Last Thursday, Houser ordered relocation assistance for the Diplomat's tenants, equal to about one month's rent and any security deposit, minus any outstanding rent they owe, says Steve McKenzie, senior corporation counsel for the city's law department.

The city has been reaching out to residents, putting up flyers with notices about assistance and knocking on doors, and will continue to reach out to residents tomorrow, says McKenzie.

As of late last week, about 46 tenants were still in the 95-unit building, and the city had been in contact with 22 of those people, with three placements confirmed, says McKenzie.

"DFSS (the city's Department of Family and Support Services) will have staff on-site to assist any tenant who has not moved with offers of relocation to appropriate shelters," says McKenzie.

Gonzalez says the Lakeview Action Coalition is committed to keeping the Diplomat an affordable place to live, but right now, it is concentrating on keeping tenants off the streets. She says Gore needs to sell the buildling so something can happen.

 "He needs to sell it...instead of letting it be just a big, vacant hulk in the community, says Gonzalez.

The city also wants see the Diplomat remain affordable, but won't be able to follow through with that until the court battles around the building are over, says Molly Sullivan, spokesperson for the Department of Community Development.

"Our goal is to is to have this rehabbed into a modern SRO and to make sure it stays safe and decent affordable rental housing," says Sullivan.


Staff Writer Megan Cottrell covers public housing for the Daily News. She can be reached at 773-362-5002, ext. 12, or megan [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.