Life in an SRO: When temporary housing becomes a home

Single Room Occupancy hotels once were envisioned as transitory residences – where people needing a leg up for a short time could pay a low weekly rate for rent before moving on to something better. But in reality, they are anything but temporary. The Rosemoor Hotel in the West Loop neighborhood has residents who have been neighbors so long they remember each other’s phone numbers and favorite city haunts, and know to check up on each other when a fire alarm goes off.

Many residents planned to stay at the Rosemoor as long as they could, in lieu of another seeking other housing options.

But lately things have been changing. The Rosemoor changed ownership earlier this year, rents increased for the kitchen-less studio apartments and some long-time residents received 30-day notices to vacate the premises. The tenants argued the rent hike was retaliation for organizing a tenants association. Earlier this month, a court ruled in the tenants’ favor.

For now, Rosemoor tenants are allowed to stay in the building. But in a building licensed for temporary housing, there may be little long-term future in the place many tenants have called home. Here, in their own words, three residents share their stories:

Cecil Stovall in his room at the Rosemoor Hotel. Photo by Michelle Kanaar

Cecil Stovall in his room at the Rosemoor Hotel. Photo by Michelle Kanaar

Cecil Stovall  became disabled in 2002, when he fell on the job as a railroad mechanic and was forced to have his right his replaced. He’s lived at the Rosemoor for three years.

I stayed in most of the major [SRO] hotels due to the fact that my credit is not the best, as a result of staying in places like this. There is no way you can pay them and try to pay for a new place unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

With all this uncertainty about a place to stay, it’s kind of hard to get into your other health issues. I don’t have anybody to take care of me, so I have got to make sure by me staying in places like this I am able to take care of myself. When a person gets a certain age, moving, uprooting is a big deal. You want to see yourself when you are about 50 or 60 being in the place you’re going to die in, you don’t want to be thinking, a year from now I got to move again. And every time I move, I’ve lost stuff that is intangible, that I can’t replace.

 

SRO resident

Barbara Warmack is looking at senior housing among other housing options. "I'm not going to let this worry me, I'm just not going to give up," Warmack said. Photo by Michelle Kanaar

Barbara Warmack used to live at the New Jackson Hotel, an SRO about a mile east of the Rosemoor, until it was also sold to a developer. She’s lived at the Rosemoor for a year.

The place that I was going to move two months ago, they couldn’t keep hold of it because I was waiting on this letter [from the management of the Rosemoor] to get me a valid state ID. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I still haven’t gotten my valid state ID yet. Some of the places I put in charge you a $25 application fee, you put in and they don’t call you back. Ain’t no use getting upset. Just keep moving and do what you can, because if you get upset you ain’t hurting nobody but yourself.

I will be 62 in October, so I am not going to let this worry me, I am just going to not give up. A year and a half ago I was staying over in the nursing home, I had a problem with identity theft, and I was living in the street for a whole year while they were collecting my checks. So this is nothing compared to what I’ve been through. You’ve just got to stay strong. I’m going to need some time, more than 30 days, to find something. If I ever get my state ID.

 

Kerry Carter has been living in the Rosemoor for two years, and though he has the means to find alternate housing, he thinks it’s worth staying and fighting for those who do not. Photo by Michelle Kanaar

Kerry Carter has been living in the Rosemoor for two years, and though he has the means to find alternate housing, he thinks it’s worth staying and fighting for those who do not. Photo by Michelle Kanaar

Kerry Carter has lived in the Rosemoor for three years. He works at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he sterilizes instruments for the operating room.

I really like the place. It’s just convenient, the quiet. You can concentrate more on what you want to concentrate on. I am a sports fanatic, a White Sox fan. Are you a Cubs fan? I come home, relax, read, and that’s it. It’s enjoyable. I like it. I have a little refrigerator, a little closet.

I feel for the [residents], I really do. It’s not right, I feel, of what they are doing to increase the rent by that much. I mean, my god. To be slapped with a $300 increase, I have never heard of that. The fight is real, and I believe in it. I am more secure than a lot of them, but I will fight to the end. Right now it’s principle.

 


Filed under: Housing

Tags: housing, Rosemoor Hotel, SRO

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