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Seniors Living at Devon Place React to Presbyterian Sale: 'It's Disgusting'

By Linze Rice | September 16, 2015 5:58am | Updated on October 21, 2015 9:23am
 Devon Place, 1950 W. Devon Ave. in West Ridge, is one of three Presbyterian Homes locations closing next year, meaning that more than 100 seniors must find new housing.
Devon Place, 1950 W. Devon Ave. in West Ridge, is one of three Presbyterian Homes locations closing next year, meaning that more than 100 seniors must find new housing.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

WEST RIDGE — Seniors who depended on a permanent place to live at Devon Place in West Ridge, a senior living facility owned by Presbyterian Homes, are echoing the angry and distraught sentiments shared by Lakeview neighbors over the closing of three affordable housing buildings for seniors, including Devon Place.

One resident named Bill, a retired cab driver who did not want to give his last name, said he and his wife, a former employee with Chase bank, had lived at the 1950 W. Devon Ave. building for the past six years, an experience they said they've "enjoyed."

But now the couple is being forced to move.

Presbyterian Homes alerted more than 100 low-income residents in its three Chicago residences to the closings in an Aug. 13 letter, giving them until November 2016 to move.

It's all anyone in Devon Place is talking about, Bill said.

"It's not good because these are senior citizens who have no place to go," he said Tuesday. "Some people are elderly, most people are very ill and have health problems, but they want us out, so what can you do?"

He said though some people may have family to help take care of them, many are scrambling to find affordable housing. With a years-long waiting list at many nearby facilities, he said people in the building he's talked to think it's unrealistic they'll be able to find a comparable place to live.

Bill and his wife are moving out next week from their two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment at Devon Place into a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in the neighborhood for $900 — a "downgrade" from his nice unit here for a higher price, he said.

Along with a year's notice, the company is promising to pay residents $1,500 for moving expenses and continue rent subsidies for a year. If residents leave before November 2016, they will receive the unused subsidy.

Bill said though he's bothered by his rent increase for a smaller apartment, that's not what "scares him" the most.

"What bothers me is a big organization like this, they should have told us two, three years in advance so people could sign up, maybe get a senior citizen building instead of giving us a year notice," he said. "A year's not enough time. I'm on a list right now, but there's no guarantee they're gonna call you anyway and then you have to move again."

Another resident agreed with Bill, saying that no matter what happened, people depending on Devon Place were caught in a "catch-22" situation.

That 65-year-old resident said she would give DNAinfo the same reason for not wanting to give her name as she has done for the social service workers at Devon Place: "Unless you can tell me about apartments, I'm not gonna give my name, rank, serial number, nothing."

She did say that she's yet to find a place to live, noting that she has a number of applications out to various buildings.

And though she knows there's "nothing she can do about it," she's not happy — and she's worried what kind of impact this will have on seniors older than her who don't have family to take care of them or who are extremely ill.

"It's pretty disgusting, it really is," she said.

In addition to Devon Place in West Ridge, Presbyterian Homes plans to close another two Lakeview locations — Crowder Place, 3801 N. Pine Grove Ave. and Peter Mulvey Place, 416 W. Barry Ave. The not-for-profit, faith-based organization has retirement communities in Evanston, Lake Forest and Arlington Heights, which will remain open.

The news was first reported by the Sun-Times last week.

Presbyterian Homes told residents the rent-subsidized apartments were no longer financially sustainable. Anticipated maintenance and capital expenditures, "along with current operating deficits," would overwhelm its Geneva Foundation Outreach Fund, which supports the program.

On Friday, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) spoke out in support of residents, imploring Presbyterian Homes to work with them to find a developer who would maintain the affordable housing for low-income seniors.

Cappleman said he was "shocked" to learn from residents that the affordable housing was going to be sold to market-rate developers.

"As we started to demand answers, it became very clear to us that there had been a plan in place a long time ago, but never did they tell any of us," Cappleman said.

The aldermen met three weeks ago with Presbyterian Homes, ONE Northside and city departments to seek a delay in the process and a better solution for the residents, though Tunney said he felt Presbyterian Homes was "disingenuous" about its desire to come to a solution. While its top executives denied the properties were sold, "it felt to me, as a business person myself, that the deal was done," Tunney said.

Bill at Devon Place said so far he's not heard anything from Ald. Debra Silverstein's office about the latest developments with Presbyterian.

Silverstein could not be reached for comment Tuesday due to a religious holiday, but on Thursday said she agreed with Cappleman that the situation was "terrible."

Cappleman said last week the company wrongly believed it could not sell the properties to affordable developers without losing money.

"Subsidies will make up for that. But our understanding is they aren't willing to cooperate with affordable buyers," he said.

Contributing: Ariel Cheung

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