Three women have died from suspected heat exhaustion at a Rogers Park senior living complex on Chicago’s North Side.
A “Fast Warmup”
On May 14, 2022, three seniors were found dead at the James Sneider Apartments at 7450 N. Rogers Ave., next to the CTA’s Howard Street bus and train station. Residents had reportedly complained for days about the heat in the building, which is managed by Hispanic Housing Development Corporation. The city had seen a “fast warmup” during this period, which prompted 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden to ask management to cool down the building.
On May 16, Hadden called upon the Chicago City Council’s housing committee to initiate hearings to investigate how the deaths happened and look for recommendations to prevent heat-related deaths in such residences in the future.
“We don’t have an enforceable ordinance,” said Hadden. “There’s a lot of relying on common sense. We can’t have more people die.”
Rogers Park Senior Living Complex Victims Identified
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the three women who died at the Rogers Park senior living complex as 76-year-old Delores McNeely, 72-year-old Gwendolyn Osborne, and 68-year-old Janice Reed. Personal injury attorneys representing Reed’s family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the building’s owners and managers.
Hadden suggested that the deaths appeared to be the result of complications from heat exhaustion, though the Medical Examiner’s Office had not released an official cause of death at the time of her statement.
Residents of the building, which houses people age 55 and older, said they had complained about the temperature in their units as early as May 10.
City Ordinance Allegedly “Miscited”
Hadden claimed that she had asked Hispanic Housing Development Corporation on May 12 to turn on the air, but her request was denied. She said the company informed her that it was aware of the heat complaints but “miscited” a city ordinance on minimum heat requirements as the reason it could not turn on the cooling system.
Chicago’s heat ordinance requires landlords to keep temperatures at a minimum of 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees at night between Sept. 15 and June 1. Some residents said that the building’s policy was not to turn on the air conditioning until June 1.
The deceased women were discovered when authorities were called to the site on May 14 to perform wellness checks. The Chicago Fire Department began blowing cool air into the building at that time to help regulate the temperature.
“It’s so hot in those units,” Hadden said at the scene that Saturday. “These are senior residents, residents with health conditions. They should not be in these conditions.”
Hispanic Housing Development Corporation issued a statement that it was cooperating with the city and conducting its own investigation into the women’s deaths at the Rogers Park senior living complex.
“We are deeply saddened by the deaths of three residents at 7450 N. Rogers,” the statement read. “The safety and security of our residents has always been our highest priority at HHDC. We are working with the city of Chicago and conducting our own investigation into the incident.”
Lawmakers Vow to Take Action
Though a hearing into the deaths was not immediately scheduled, Hadden said that Chicago’s departments of Law, Housing, Public Health, and Family and Support Services would play a role in the proceedings. Hispanic Housing Development Corporation would also be asked to testify.
Other lawmakers have expressed support after hearing complaints of overheating in apartments and institutional buildings throughout the area.
Rep. Kelly Cassidy said she was in talks with state Sen. Mike Simmons about ways to hold landlords who accept public funds accountable when such issues arise. The two officials will also host a town hall with residents to address their concerns. James Sneider is a mixed-income building that receives federal housing funds.
Hispanic Housing Development Corporation has reportedly been the source of resident and regulatory complaints in the past. In 2021, the organization paid a $1.5-million fine in a class-action lawsuit alleging that it failed to provide tenants with housing regulations, among other infractions.
The company is a Chicago-based developer of affordable housing with more than 4,000 units in the Midwest.
Advocating on Behalf of Chicago Seniors
If you or a loved one have been hurt at a senior living facility, reach out to the dedicated personal injury attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With over $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the leading Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois. For more than four decades, we have been advocating on behalf of seniors who have been the victims of negligence. Our personal injury attorneys have the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation necessary to get you and your family the justice you deserve.