Monday, May 11, 2009

Please help! Champaign residents to be kicked out their homes!

What to do about it: Call these people. All of them.

15 Children will be Homeless in Champaign within 48 hours as Gateway gets Condemned
Submitted by ida on May 10, 2009 - 9:46pm

* Champaign
* Champaign County
* Government -- Local
* Local Interest

At least 15 children, 3 elderly women and a dozen adults, will be homelessness in Champaign in less than 48 hours. The shelters are full. The residents, most of whom work, just paid May rent and have no savings. And the City of Champaign seems to have washed their hands of the problem.

The City of Champaign plans to condemn Gateway Studios on north Neil Street on Tuesday, as soon as the power company shuts off the power to this former motel, turned housing complex. Residents have been paying their rent, which includes utilities, but the property owner was not paying the power bill, running up a debt of at least $44,000.

CU Citizens for Peace and Justice is calling for concerned community members to attend Champaign City Council meeting this Tuesday night at 7 pm to insist that the city do more. "They could find a way to keep the power on, provide relocation assistance, and sue the property owner on behalf of residents to get their utility payments back. People we talked to said they were working and had incomes, but no savings to deal with this emergency" said a member of CUCPJ, and one of nine who went door-to-door on Mother's Day to meet with residents.

On Friday, city staff met with residents to give them a list of places they could move to and told them to "dig deep and figure out what you are going to do." Calls to the local shelters showed that they were full. A call to Value Place, one of the few affordable immediate options on the city's list, showed that it was full.

Karen, who has three teenaged girls who attend school, said "I don't know where we will go. I guess I will have to live in my car" and then began to cry. Two men who worked as property maintenance said they had not been paid in weeks and would likely sleep outside. One elderly woman said she would not leave, even after the power was turned off. A young woman holding her one-year-old daughter just shook her head and said "we don't have any options."

Residents found out on Friday that they had to move by the end of Monday. "If I had had time, I could do something about this" said Karen, who works at a local hotel.

There are a number of questions that need to be answered:

- The city received notice a month ago that it was getting $100,000 in unexpected federal assistance, which is was planning to use on a rental assistance program. Why not use 1/10 of that now to provide transitional shelter? Or why not use the township or general fund?

- The city has known that this property was in shambles since last September when the whole first floor was flooded by the Boneyard. Red Cross relocated the residents then to get them out of the moldy environment. But they returned because they lacked other options, despite the fact that the ceilings are falling down, there are locks missing from some doors, and the pool is filled with slime. Why did the city let this crisis happen without intervening earlier?

- What are we as a community going to do to house people as the recession deepens? In Champaign-Urbana, the shelters are full, 1,754 households are on the Section 8 waiting list, 164 families are on the public housing waiting list, homelessness is up 15% this year, and at least 210 children are reported homeless. Where will the 50 elderly residents of foreclosed Inman go?

- We have a record number of vacant apartments and a record number of people in need of housing? Who is going to play a leadership role in connecting our local resources and our local needs? Why do we continue to rely on the market to fix the problem, when it so clearly can't without some kind of intervention?
Legal Recourse? Probably Not, But It's a Crime
Submitted by nightwatch on May 10, 2009 - 11:23pm.

The News-Gazette, in its weekly Sunday tally of votes by our local federal legislators, indicates that it is likely that legal relief for those affected by the Gateway closure might seem to have some relief on the way. The US Senate voted by 57-39 to amend S896 to require that "renters in apartment buildings...[of] foreclosed properties" be granted the right to continue occupying a building "until their leases expire and give renters of single-family homes 90 days to find new accomodations."

Will this help those at Gateway? Most likely not. They probably have, at best, a monthly lease, so they'd be gone soon anyway. The eviction is predicated on the Gateway owners not having paid their utility bills, not having their mortgage foreclosed on. That often comes before foreclosure these days, as it has at several other rental properties in Champaign County.

One would think that government would have some program in place to deal with such injustices. Unfortunately, as many of us are all too aware, we have a legal system that focuses on what is legal, not what is either moral or just.

Just watch the way that public officials race to shift the blame, avoid any repsonsibility, and pass the buck as the Gateway residents suffer. Then watch how the US Senate and House do nothing but pass largely symbolic "solutions" to the human carnage of the current current economic crisis. Banks are aided with billions, even trillions of dollars in loans since they are "too big to fail" but ordinary, hardworking Americans and their families? All they get is the street.

This is a crime, but don't hold your breath that any arrest will occur, let alone a trial and sentencing of those whose malfeseance is responsibile. Our justice system is too busy with their focus on catching college students with a little reefer. Besides, they are so incompetent that they can't do a simple stake-out of an artwork on campus that has been repeatedly vandalized by racists. The priorities of government bureaucrats are often at odds with those of citizens. The question is: Why do we keep re-electing those bums?

* reply

time to talk to Ameren
Submitted by Warrior on May 11, 2009 - 12:35am.

You would think that with the right court orders in place Ameren would be happy to keep the power on until the end of June (the earliest a one-month lease could be terminated) in exchange for 100% of the rent. Aren't there some rules about self-help for tennants with grossly neglectful landlords? Six weeks should be enough time to relocate.

* reply

CALL TO ACTION! Tuesday 7PM (Gateway Evicitions)
Submitted by anonymous on May 11, 2009 - 9:34am.

Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice is asking for folks to
turn out in solidarity with and to help advocate for those being summarily
evicted from the Gateway Studios apartment complex.

COUNCIL CHAMBERS on the ground floor of the Champaign City Building
102 N. Neil St.

As reported on in the Saturday News-Gazette article on this issue (see: )
, residents of this complex (the old Holiday Inn on Neil St.) were told in
a meeting on Friday that the power will be turned off Tuesday (residents
now say it will be turned off TOMORROW, Monday), and that the city will
subsequently condemn the property, forcing eviction. The reason the power
is being cut off (by Ameren) is that the building's owners have not been
paying the property's power bills, amassing a $44,000 debt. But the
residents there pay rent that INCLUDES utilities. According to the
News-Gazette the meeting was conducted by the property's management and
ATTENDED BY CHAMPAIGN CITY OFFICIALS, who apparently saw nothing wrong
with the power being cut to these residents with such short notice,
effectively forcing them to abandon their home in 3 days or less, with
some of them having absolutely nowhere else to go. This amounts to a 3 day
notice for what is effectively a summary eviction, though the failure of
the owners to pay the power bill is certainly no fault of the residents.

10 local activists, myself included, teamed up earlier today to visit
residents, confirm what is happening to them, asking whether and how
they'll be able to cope and pledging advocacy and solidarity. A few
residents have agreed to come to the Champaign City Council meeting to
tell their story and we are urging everyone we can to attend TUESDAY 7PM
to support them, advocate for them and stand in solidarity with them as we
object to and demand that the city address this injustice visited upon
them through no fault of their own

The 10 activists canvassed the complex initially in 5 teams of 2. My team
personally spoke with one woman who has been staying at Gateway for over a
year, who has a job, always pays her rent, but must support 4 school-age
children. She explained to us how she absolutely has nowhere else to go,
especially with the ludicrously short notice and hopes she can at least
find someone who will take her children in while she anticipates having to
live in her car. She bravely plans to come on Tuesday to tell her story
(along with others), even though by then she and her children will
probably already be homeless.


1. I think I can speak for all the activists involved and I would hope
most people in the community in saying that this incident is grossly
unjust (so much so that it should be patently illegal).

2. Rather than going along with this as if it's routine, our government
should be taking every possible action to prevent what is effectively a
3-day notice of eviction brought upon some of the most vulnerable citizens
in our community due to negligence and/or intentional deception by the
property owners and also the callous heartlessness Ameren, should they
choose to go through with the power cut.

3. It stands to reason that the City could take direct, persuasive and
perhaps even legal action to influence Ameren to preserve power to the
residents that need more time to find another place to stay, say, at least
until the end of the month.

4. The City MUST find a way to address this issue and PREVENT it from ever
happening again (in this economy, it seems likely this won't be first such
incident and it's already happened recently in nearby Rantoul). This might
be done through legal action or the threat of legal action against Ameren
and/or the owners (setting an influential precedent), or if no legal route
is possible, establishing new law at the City level that would preclude
this from ever happening again.

But in my opinion, it's unlikely *any* of the above will be considered
seriously by the Champaign City Council unless there is strong public
pressure for them to do so.


COUNCIL CHAMBERS on the ground floor of the Champaign City Building
102 N. Neil St.

* reply

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