Residents complained about the heat at the Rogers Park complex days before 3 women were found dead
Residents of a seniors’ residence in Rogers Park where three elderly women were found dead on Saturday began complaining four days earlier that the building was overwhelming, according to the local alderman and a tenant.
Between 11:10 a.m. and 7 p.m., the women — ages 67, 72 and 76 — were found separately unresponsive inside units at the James Sneider Apartments, 7450 N. Rogers Ave., according to Chicago police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Aldus. Maria Hadden (49th) told the Sun-Times she believed a lack of air conditioning in the building likely caused the deaths. Although locals didn’t start contacting her until Thursday, she said they reported filing complaints about the heat as early as Tuesday.
She said it’s ‘maddening’ that those charged with running the 10-story building apparently haven’t ‘put the lives and safety of their residents first’, especially at a resort that is receiving funding public.
“Anyone considering being a housing provider should be warned for this,” she said.
The medical examiner’s office has not ruled on the cause or nature of the deaths, and Chicago police have not identified any potential signs of foul play.
The Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, which owns the building, did not respond to questions from the Sun-Times.
It is headed by Paul Roldan, a longtime developer of affordable housing who has considerable influence. Roldan, the company’s president and chief executive, is chairman of the board of the Cook County Housing Authority and previously served as co-chair of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Housing Transition Committee after her election in 2019.
Last April, the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation settled a class action lawsuit in Cook County Court, agreeing to pay $1.5 million for allegedly failing to provide residents with copies of the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. city residential properties and violated security deposit regulations. The company has denied any wrongdoing.
Kathy, a 75-year-old woman who has lived in James Sneider Apartments for 18 years, said residents started complaining on Tuesday when the heat became “unbearable”. Still, the conditions only got worse,” according to Kathy, who said her fifth-floor apartment got as hot as 91 degrees on Wednesday.
“I was just hot and scared,” said Kathy, who declined to give her last name. “I wasn’t mad because, really, I thought the manager was doing everything she could do.”
Hadden said she went to the building on Thursday to “feel the heat” and learned no one had air conditioning.
That’s when a facility manager told him the company was still warming up to avoid being potentially cited by the city for shutting it down too soon. A city ordinance requires rental properties to be at least 68 degrees during nighttime hours between September 15 and June 1, with landlords facing fines of up to $1,000 a day for not s be consistent.
The facilities manager also said the company is considering increasing the air conditioning turn-on schedule, Hadden noted. Meanwhile, fans were installed to circulate cold air and a “cooling space” with portable air conditioning units was installed in a community hall – a move Kathy said was potentially life-saving.
“I slept there for two nights and it was pretty good,” Kathy said. “I probably would have died if I had to stay upstairs in my apartment.”
Hadden said she was notified Saturday afternoon that two of the residents had died. She then helped coordinate wellness checks throughout the building, which led to the discovery of the death of a third resident.
Chicago firefighters later reported “ventilating and blowing fresh air” Saturday to help lower the building’s temperature. And at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Hadden said the building’s air conditioning system was circulating through the apartments.
She now plans to propose changes to city rules “regarding cooling and especially the elderly.”
“If we can’t trust these companies to use their common sense, use their logic and take responsibility for their tenants,” she said, “then we will come up with a new legislation to force them to do so.”