Workers say Gold Coast hotel is laying them off before shift to homeless shelter

Thursday, November 9, 2023
Gold Coast hotel workers say shift to homeless shelter means layoffs
Selina Hotel workers say they are being laid off because Chicago is turning their workplace into a homeless shelter.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Workers at Gold Coast hotel say they are being laid off because their workplace will soon become a homeless shelter.

Sixteen hotel workers said they are being laid off this Friday, saying management notified them just last week.

"When we got the letter from the hotel saying that my co-workers and I are out of work as of this Friday I couldn't believe it. I feel very betrayed," said employee Linwei Xiao.

Residents concerned as plans for controversial Brighton Park migrant camp move forward

Mayor Brandon Johnson has come under criticism for not doing enough for the city's unhoused, focusing instead on the growing migrant crisis. The mayor's office would not say how many people will be moving in, only that this is a temporary arrangement to last through the winter months when people experiencing homelessness are at their most vulnerable.

The Selina Hotel served as a migrant shelter at the beginning of the year, from December to March, then went back to booking guests. At that time hotel workers were able to keep their jobs.

But now, Unite Here Local 1 says management told the union that the hotel will operate under a contract to house homeless, triggering the layoffs.

The union says the hotel later wrote no such contract currently exists but Selina could enter into a sublease agreement whereby the hotel could be rented to a third party to house homeless for an extended period of time.

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Reaction from people who live across the street was mixed on Wednesday.

"I feel badly. I really do. But no. Not for it. Not for it. I pay too much where I live," said Margie Roberts, resident.

"You see people on the street and you want to make sure everybody is OK. We also just want to know that there is a plan for everything," said resident Patrick Tham.

The shelter would be the second to open in the neighborhood over the last year. About 1,500 migrants currently live at the Inn of Chicago on Ohio Street. The shelter has been roundly criticized by both residents and the neighborhood's aldermen alike.

Ald. Brendan Reilly said Wednesday he was not consulted by the mayor about the Selina Hotel, adding in part, "The Johnson Administration's continued lack of transparency and communication regarding the opening of potential migrant and homeless shelter locations in wards throughout the city is neither acceptable nor good government. Simply put: it is wrong.

"I strongly oppose Mayor Johnson's bad decision to convert a revenue generating hotel property, just steps from Michigan Avenue, into a city shelter that will result in the loss of many good paying jobs."

The mayor's office would not provide an exact timeline for the shelter's functioning, but did say it could remain open up to seven months and will be financed through a state grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services.