Avalon Park residents forced out of fire-damaged building: 'I have nowhere to go'

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Avalon Park residents are being told to move out of a building where they're dealing with fire damage and no water or heat, and some say they have nowhere to go.

"I'm 67 years old and I have nowhere to go in three days," resident Theresa Johnson said. "You tell us to jump up and go out, where are we going to go?"

Some Avalon Park tenants say they are using bottled water to bathe, cook and flush toilets after they got letters Friday saying they needed to vacate the building and water would be shut off.

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By Saturday, they didn't have running water. In addition, they said there has been no heat for eight weeks.

"We need help, we need water and heat. We was treated like animals," tenant Margaret Jackson said. "We can't just jump up in three days and leave the building."

There was a fire on the top floor of 1413 East 79th Street on Oct 1. The tenants said water used to douse the flames caused damage and mold.

"It's really unsafe for them to stay there, period," building owner Craig Lane said.

Lane confirms there is damage from the fire and explains due to the damage, the furnace isn't working and his insurance adjuster advised him to turn off the water to prevent frozen pipes.

Lane said he actually lives here, but left due to the damage and had warned the other tenants and they should leave, too.

"We can't let the pipes bust just because they want to stay in there and we've asked them and told them they have to leave," Lane said. "We thought we were doing them a favor to let them stay, but obviously that's a problem."

"The city should have been involved in this if the building is inhabitable," community organizer Dixon Romeo said. "Folks should have been knowing the proper rights, and things should have been executed, but not like this."

A city spokesman said a building inspector has been assigned to investigate the complaint of no heat. By law, Chicago landlords are required to provide water and heat in the winter.
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