Former Astor House Tenant Dies Days After Eviction

By Benjamin Woodard on December 19, 2013 6:55am | Updated on December 19, 2013 8:53am

 James Barnett holds the driver's license of Charles Roth, 55, outside Astor House in Rogers Park. Barnett cared for Roth, who died Wednesday, before they were both evicted Friday from the Astor House.
James Barnett holds the driver's license of Charles Roth, 55, outside Astor House in Rogers Park. Barnett cared for Roth, who died Wednesday, before they were both evicted Friday from the Astor House.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — Charles Roth, who had been hospitalized after being evicted from his studio apartment in the Astor House last week, died Wednesday at Stroger Hospital, his live-in caretaker said.

"This man did not get any justice," said James Barnett, who for the past three months had been taking care of Roth at their Astor House home.

The two men were evicted Friday by Cook County Sheriff's deputies, along with at least three other tenants, despite the cold and the snow.

The county's annual holiday moratorium on evictions took effect just three days later.

Roth, 55, a recovering alcoholic, suffered from a bad liver and peripheral artery disease and had to be taken directly to the hospital after being evicted because he was too sick to go to a temporary shelter, said Barnett.

His condition quickly deteriorated: He was put on a ventilator Sunday, and his heart stopped Wednesday afternoon, Barnett said.

He said Roth had been sick before, but the eviction only exacerbated his condition.

"All of this could have been avoided and Chuck would not have been evicted and he probably would have still been alive," Barnett said. "I know he would still be alive."

On Monday, Roth's attorney, Victoria Ogunsanya, with the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing requested that Cook County Judge George Scully Jr. reverse the eviction of the ill man.

She said she was shocked Astor House evicted Roth because they had been trying to find a place where he could move considering his poor health.

No immediate action was taken on Ogunsanya's motion and a follow-up hearing was scheduled for next month.

On Wednesday, Ogunsanya said she now will have to inform the judge of Roth's death.

"We were trying to get [Roth] back in [his apartment] and now that’s not possible," she said.

A spokesman for BJB Properties, the owner of the Astor House, didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

BJB had been renovating the troubled property and raising rents there since it took over late last year. Activists and residents had protested BJB's plans, which resulted in many long-time tenants leaving or being evicted.

Barnett said Roth had been diagnosed with his ailments in August after waking up and being unable to walk.

He hasn't been in the hospital since September, but "life beat him down because of his years of alcoholism," he said.

"He wasn't sickly, he just couldn't walk — he was bedridden," said Barnett. "He was alert, he was in his right mind, he could hold a conversation."

BJB said the tenants evicted last week hadn't paid rent in months.

But Barnett said Roth wasn't one of them and was kicked out unfairly.

"This was a man that was wronged and this is why I'm still fighting for him," he said. "This was a huge injustice to him."

He said Roth's known relatives — his mom, sister and brother — all have died in the past few years.

The brother had taken care of Roth until he died of an overdose earlier in the year.

Barnett was unsure who would claim Roth's body.

Barnett said he was the last person to speak to him before he lost consciousness and went on a ventilator.

"I spoke to Chuck Sunday about the Bears game because he was a huge Bears fan," Barnett said. "He wanted to catch every Bears game aired, and I said, 'Chuck, are you watching?' And he said, 'Yeah, Jim I'm going to watch the game.'

"And that was the last thing he said — the last thing that he said."

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