Class action vs YMCA over evictions thwarted by missing agreement for man participating in Chicago city program

By Scott Holland | Oct 19, 2018

By Paul Sableman (YMCA Chicago) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A man who participated in a Chicago city program for the homeless failed to prove he was a YMCA tenant under Chicago’s landlord ordinance, losing the opportunity to continue a class action suit against the Y over evictions, a state appeals panel has ruled.

Sopuruchi Okeke Ewo filed a class action complaint in 2015 against the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, which he said didn’t renew a lease he arranged through the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, then wrongfully evicted him. The YMCA moved to dismiss, arguing that because the city paid Ewo’s rent as part of a grant program, he doesn’t have the same legal protections as an individual tenant, as defined in the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. Cook County Circuit Court Judge David Atkins had granted the dismissal.

A three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court ruled on Ewo’s appeal of that ruling in an order issued Oct. 18. Justice Jesse Reyes wrote the decision; Justices Bertina Lampkin and Mary Rochford concurred. The order was issued under Supreme Court Rule 23, which restricts its use as precedent, except under very limited circumstances permitted by the Supreme Court rule.

In arguing against the dismissal, Ewo noted he had a written program agreement with the city and an oral lease with the YMCA. But the YMCA said its only contract is with the city, which gives the YMCA a block grant to set aside 11 rooms for program participants, each of whom have six months to live in the space. The city determines each participant’s exit date and communicates it directly through a case manager, Reyes noted in the decision.

Justice Jesse Reyes

The YMCA resident manager said Ewo indicated plans to apply for YMCA tenancy directly, even getting a one-day extension on his city-paid stint, but failed to do so and “instead vacated the premises for ‘an extended period of days.’ ” He eventually returned and said he would apply to be a tenant, earning another one-day extension, though he never formally did so. The city found a new program participant and ordered the YMCA to make the room available, which led the YMCA to call city police to have Ewo evicted.

Atkins agreed to dismiss the complaint because Ewo failed to supply a written agreement between himself and the YMCA. In his amended complaint, Ewo said his written agreement with the city should suffice along with his oral lease with the YMCA. Atkins again dismissed the complaint, agreeing Ewo failed to provide sufficient evidence for either claim.

According to Reyes, Ewo “never alleged he entered into an oral lease with YMCA independent of the written program agreement” with the city. Each part of the oral lease Ewo described “in his amended complaint was pursuant to the program agreement,” which was between himself and the city, not himself and the YMCA.

The panel further noted Ewo’s testimony and evidence was conflicted in that some parts alleged a six-month oral lease, while others asserted month-to-month terms. A copy of the agreement would have settled which was accurate, but Ewo failed “to attach the agreement to his amended complaint” even though it was the basis of his claims.

Ewo “was provided the opportunity to describe his oral lease with more specificity and attach the program agreement upon which his claims were founded,” Reyes wrote. Instead, he “chose to stand on his amended complaint as pleaded, which was properly dismissed.”

Ewo is represented in the action by attorney Berton Ring, of Chicago.

The YMCA has been represented by attorney Richard M. Craig, of Chicago.

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Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois First District Appellate Court Law Offices Of Berton M Ring YMCA of Metro Chicago

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