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Neighbors of Squatters on Ridge Boulevard: 'Their Parties are Super Loud'

By Benjamin Woodard | February 11, 2015 5:52am
 Jan Fowler (r.) sits with her neighbors Tuesday night to discuss parties at the Ridge House, a home taken over by squatters who say they're doing the community good.
Jan Fowler (r.) sits with her neighbors Tuesday night to discuss parties at the Ridge House, a home taken over by squatters who say they're doing the community good.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — The squatters who are on the verge of being evicted from the single-family home they occupied three years ago throw loud late-night parties and are generally unneighborly, said a group of condo residents who live next door.

Maria Calvillo and her son, Jorge Ortiz, have been living in the bank-owned home at 7245 N. Ridge Blvd. and are now fighting to stay.

But some of the neighbors — after hearing about the claims that the home was a community center where children play and garden and those in need of housing stay — cry foul.

"They are not the good neighbors that they try to portray themselves as," Jan Fowler, 68, said inside her condo that abuts the home. "It confirms all the biases you have of squatters."

Fowler, and five of her neighbors said the home was never neglected after the former owner moved out due to foreclosure.

"The place sat empty for about a year. We weren't having any problems and the place was secure — it was just empty," Fowler said.

And when the squatters moved in, the loud parties began, the neighbors said.

Ben Woodard discusses the squatters' situation:

"The parties are late. The barbecuing is late," said Joy Sanchez, 60, who lives a floor beneath Fowler. "You wouldn't wish this [eviction] upon anyone, but for them to go would bring a lot of peace to this area."

But Gerardo Calvillo, 44 — who lived in the home with his sister, Maria, until a couple of weeks ago — said the claims of late-night partying were untrue.

He said they do host grill-outs and entertain families from their day care down the street, but all the festivities wrap up well before midnight.

"I don't know what her problem is," he said, referring to Fowler. "We try to respect everybody. The comments, they hurt."

Gerardo Calvillo, 44, lived in the home on Ridge Boulevard with his sister, but moved out a couple of weeks ago to avoid being arrested, he said. (DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard)

The family also said they've hosted movie screenings, gardening events and clothing drives. On Monday — expecting a visit from the Cook County Sheriff's Office — activists with Communities United against Foreclosure and Eviction occupied the home with the intention to refuse eviction orders.

On Tuesday night, the activists hosted one in a series of workshops about social justice issues.

Fowler said the family wouldn't be missed if evicted, which is expected to happen soon after a judge's ruling in December.

"They don't feel like a part of the community," she said. "They're not a part of this neighborhood."

Another neighbor, Tom McClure, 27, said he moved into the condo building with his wife a few years ago.

"Their parties are super loud," he said, also questioning the family's story of community building and urban gardening. "You don't see them do anything. Their vegetable garden was a joke."

McClure likened the home to a frat house.

Neighbor Elaine Traver, 62, said she blamed the home's owner, CitiMortgage Inc., for neglecting the home and allowing squatters to move in.

"It's like leaving your car unlocked; a thief is gonna come check the doors," she said. "It was wide open for a takeover."

She said the home would likely already have a new owner if the bank wasn't obligated to go through a tedious eviction process.

Neighbor Nelson Perez said the most favorable outcome in the short term was simple.

"Board it up," he said.

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