Caged Men: Tales from Chicago’s Single Room Occupancy Hotels

Caged. Invisible. Shamed. Trapped. These words mark the tenants, clerks and even the owners of Chicago’s last remaining Singe Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels. Caged Men is a feature-length documentary that examines the disquieting stories of near-homeless Americans living on the margins and their invisibility in a largely indifferent
and, at times, hostile community. It will attempt to lend a voice to SRO residents, clerks, owners and to the hotels themselves.

These small spaces are home to many at the bottom of Chicago’s housing ladder. Cloaked in darkness and secrecy, these hotels are often maligned as drug dens and havens for prostitution but the people who live, work and own these hotels have never fully shared their stories. Between 1960 and 1980, nearly eighty percent of the SRO housing stock was destroyed or converted. Urban renewal had taken shape inmost big cities in America and skid row was seen as a scourge that impeded progress. By 1990,Chicago’s Skid Row on West Madison Street was transformed. Hotels such as the Starr, Major, Ram, and Elk, were all destroyed to make way for the Kennedy expressway and Presidential Towers, a luxury apartment complex. In the fall of 2012, Chicago aldermen, James Cappleman and Brendan O’Reilly, authored an ordinance that would abolish building code 78.1, the municipal code that allows cubicle-style hotels.

Lead Artist: Aaron Shipp

Caged Men: Tales from Chicago's Last Remaining SRO Hotels from Aaron Shipp on Vimeo.