Angeyleah Campbell wants to know what changed to cost the Southwest Side resident her longtime hotel position.
Earlier this year, she and her fellow workers at the Selina Hotel on Chicago’s Gold Coast provided housing services to migrants. However, as of Friday, Nov. 10, she and more than a dozen other hotel workers were laid off as the hotel transitions to a seasonal home for migrants.
“Last year, our hotel housed asylum seekers, and we all kept our jobs to help clean their rooms and care for them,” said Campbell, a housekeeping supervisor who has worked at the Selina for 25 years. “I was proud that my co-workers and I did what we could to help out. So, why are we being kicked to the curb this time?”
As 16 hotel housekeeping and front-desk workers lost their jobs, a Chicago alderman blasted the city’s mayor for considering a migrant shelter in a hotel without consulting aldermanic representatives of the area.
Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward, said Mayor Brandon Johnson’s move to line up a Gold Coast hotel as a shelter without talking to him or Ald. Brian Hopkins, who also represents the neighborhood, is not good government.
Johnson plans to convert the Selina Hotel at 100 E. Chestnut to operate as a seasonal homeless shelter.
“The Johnson administration’s continued lack of transparency and communication regarding the operating of potential migrant and homeless shelter locations in wards throughout the city is neither acceptable nor good government. Simply put: It is wrong,” Reilly said in a statement.
The Mayor’s Office said that the Selina Hotel was not in a viable financial position and that the building owner made the decision to end its relationship with the hotel, resulting in the layoffs.
On Oct. 28, the city made an offer to aid displaced workers in finding placement, according to the Mayor’s Office.
“In recent years, as part of our mission to serve unhoused Chicagoans, the city has sought and utilized appropriate funding to expand shelter during the winter months. The city will temporarily use the Selina Hotel as shelter for the same purpose – shelter for the unhoused – this winter. The property will not be used to house asylum seekers,” according to a statement from the city.
“Funding for the shelter will come from an emergency and transitional housing grant,” the statement continued. “There are 116 rooms in the hotel that will be utilized as homeless shelter for up to seven months as the city rises to the challenge of serving one of our most vulnerable populations.”
Alderman Reilly said much like the Inn of Chicago migrant hotel, the Selina location is just steps from the Magnificent Mile, proximate to popular tourism destinations, hotels, and densely populated residential buildings.
“Again, much like the Inn of Chicago site selection, the mayor has decided to make this decision unilaterally, rather than confer with the local aldermen who represent residents in this area,” Reilly said.
The alderman said neither the mayor nor the city’s Department of Family and Support Services consulted with his office before securing the Selina location.
“We have requested more information about the implementation, impact, timeline and operational details of this facility,” Reilly said.
The alderman encouraged 42nd Ward residents to contact DFSS Director Brandie Knazze at Branidie.Knazze@cityofchicago.org, Mayor Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-744-3300, or First Deputy Chief of Staff Cristina Pacione-Zayas at email@example.com or 312-744-6280 with any concerns they may have.
Unite Here Local 1, which represents the laid-off hotel workers, said that management told the union that the hotel will operate under a contract to house migrants. The union said hotel management later wrote that “no such contract currently exists” but that “Selina could enter into a sublease agreement whereby the hotel is rented to a third party to house migrants for an extended period.”
“I’m ready to welcome anyone who needs shelter to our hotel,” said Linwei “Shawn” Xiao, a front desk supervisor at the Selina Hotel. “They deserve a home and we deserve to keep our jobs.”
“Throughout the pandemic, our union worked in partnership with our employers and the city of Chicago,” said Karen Kent, president of Unite Here Local 1. “Our members always led the way with open hearts. We can do good, together, when we are given the opportunity.
“When we work in partnership, we will always come up with the best result. Unite Here Local 1 members are ready to take care of anyone who is staying at the hotel whether they are migrants or other vulnerable populations. We are ready to work with whoever the appropriate parties are to ensure that vulnerable populations ae cared for by Unite Here Local 1 members. Situations like these take a partnership between labor, business, and government to reach a formal agreement to this effect.”
The Selina Hotel chain issued a statement saying that the company was suspending operations at its Chicago hotel, effective Friday, Nov. 10.
“This temporary closure will result in employee layoffs, but some unionized staff will remain on site to maintain the property,” the company said.
“Regarding the recent report about the homeless housing shelter, we can confirm that there are no current conversations, deal or negotiations with Selina around this matter, neither have we been approached by the mayor’s office,” the statement continued. “Any inquiries regarding this matter should be directed to the owners of the property as we are tenants.”