Senior tenants at low-income buildings push for safer building conditionsSneha Deyon October 7, 2021 at 11:09 pm

State Rep. Lakesia Collins speaks Wednesday outside Evergreen Tower II demanding that the owner of the building invest more for residents’ safety. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Residents of of River North’s Evergreen Towers I and II called on management to restore safety measures that were scaled back during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior tenants at two affordable housing buildings are calling for management to reinstate safety services that were scaled back during the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents of Evergreen Towers I and II, in River North, and the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, a Chicago-based senior citizen advocacy group, this week demanded the owner, Cullen Davis, invest in their safety with 24-hour security and a full-time service coordinator, services they say were offered before the pandemic.

UPholdings, the affordable housing and management company, first met with the tenants in the spring but has yet to adequately meet their demands, tenants said. In May, the tenants organized a 311 call campaign, where they collectively filed complaints with the city about the building conditions.

UPholdings did not respond to requests for comment.

Lisa Johnson said she has lived at Evergreen Towers for about 10 years. Without 24-hour security, she said emergency vehicles do not have easy access to the building, which can be life-threatening for tenants in need of medical treatment.

In the past, Johnson called an ambulance for herself and had to take the elevator to give the paramedics building access.

“I had to be treated by the ambulance in the lobby because they could not get let in,” Johnson said.

In August, management added personnel to monitor the security cameras in one of the buildings. But security cameras do not meet adequate standards for care, said Jacqueline Reynolds, the president of Evergreen Towers I.

Reynolds wants to see personnel monitor who is entering the building. She said the buildings gets a lot of unwanted guests, and tenants are currently afraid to leave their apartment after 5 p.m because they do not feel safe.

After the full-time service coordinator retired in early 2020, Reynolds also said management did not move to find a replacement. They said they are still without a service coordinator, who would conduct wellness checks and organize programming.

A city ordinance passed in July 2020 requiring owners of senior buildings to conduct well-being checks twice a week. Management paid residents of Evergreen Towers to conduct these check-ups, but tenants have repeatedly said a service coordinator needs to fill that role.

“Seniors all over Chicago came together with an ordinance that you did not follow,” Reynolds said, speaking of management. She was one of the tenants who carried out wellness checks at the start of the pandemic. “You stripped away our security and our service coordinator, and that made seniors start to feel unsafe.”

State Rep. Lakesia Collins said she has been in conversation with the owner about addressing the needs of senior tenants. “It is simple. Do what you’re supposed to do, Cullen Davis. Make sure that our seniors have 24-hour security, make sure that they’re doing wellness checks in these facilities,” Collins said.

The tenants also demanded on Wednesday that Davis and building management implement fire safety drills and monthly extermination of all units.

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