CHICAGO — In the days before three women were found dead inside a Chicago senior living complex, many reached out to the city, warning of the sweltering heat inside and the potential for mass casualties.
One of the emergency calls came from a doctor, warning officials that rooms were reaching nearly 100 degrees in temperature.
Someone made a 311 call on Wednesday, May 11, three days before the bodies of three women were found unresponsive inside the James Sneider Apartments building in Rogers Park.
“Ma’am, I’m staying in the senior citizens’ building,” one caller said. “It’s too hot up in here.”
The following day, on Thursday, May 12, a doctor called, alerting emergency personnel about the heating issue.
“One of my patients is in city building 7450 North Rogers. It’s over 90 degrees, 95 degrees yesterday. Today it’s already 90 and they’re refusing to turn on the air conditioning.
“I just want it noted that her doctor called in case anything happens to her.”
On Friday, May 13, a caller inquired about whether there were rules regarding heating and cooling in the city:
- Caller: Is there certain times you have to do that (heating/cooling)?
- Operator: Yes, the heat is September 15 to June 1.
- Caller: What about the air?
- Operator: There is no ordinance in the City of Chicago for air-conditioning, only for heat.
On Saturday, May 14, the day of the grim discoveries, locals warned of the sweltering heat inside the apartment building and the potential for grave consequences.
“We have over 100 seniors that live in that building, well over 100,” the caller said. “We are talking mass casualty potential.”
A short time later, the same caller rang:
- Caller: I called around 2 p.m., um, a little after 2 p.m. today about the James Sneider apartment building and the unbearable heating conditions and there’s been now two deaths that occurred in this apartment building. It’s a senior building.
- Operator: So, yes, I see that report in there, um, they don’t work on the weekends…so I don’t how long it’ll take to get somebody out there.
- Caller: We’re going to have more deaths, ma’am, I hate to say it.
First responders discovered the bodies of Janice Reed, Dolores McNeely and Gwendolyn Osborne at the James Sneider Apartments.
Though the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to reveal a cause of death, lawyers representing the family of the deceased have filed lawsuits.
The management allegedly miscited a city ordinance, saying they believed they could not turn on the air conditioning until June 1. The group released a statement to WGN saying, “Hispanic Housing Development Corporation has long been devoted to providing affordable homes and services that allow seniors to remain independent. The safety and security of all our residents have been and have always been our highest priority.”
Ald. Maria Hadden (49th Ward) has since introduced a resolution to City Council last Monday, calling for a hearing on wrongdoings at the senior apartment complex. The hearing is set for sometime in June.