GLEN ELLYN – When one of Glen Ellyn’s most beloved and well-known residents was faced with the possibility of losing the apartment he’s lived in for nearly 30 years, the community came together to raise money to help keep “Superman” in his home.
Jonathan Charbonneau, 52, who is known as Superman because he has been donning the superhero costume at community events for many years, was informed by his landlord Sept. 18 that the rent on his apartment was increasing by 75 percent, from $455 a month to $800, effective Oct. 1.
Charbonneau’s friend, Glen Ellyn resident Julie Spiller, said he was notified by a backdated note stuck to his front door that he had to move out or sign a new lease at the higher rent. Charbonneau also was asked to pay for all utilities, which previously had been covered by the rent. Charbonneau, who has Asperger’s syndrome, works full time at DuPage Medical Group but cannot afford the increase.
Spiller started a GoFundMe page and worked with a local attorney to negotiate a new lease at $800 a month that includes utilities so Charbonneau will be able to stay in his apartment above the old Soukup’s store on Main Street on a month-to-month basis for the next six months.
Charbonneau does not drive and relies on public transportation, so he needs to stay near the Metra train and bus stops.
Landlord Ariel Darmoni, who purchased the building in January 2017, said he had raised the rent for all the other tenants months ago when he began remodeling the units. He said he attempted to reach Charbonneau “multiple” times on the phone before putting the note on his door.
“His rent is being raised to the same amount as the other units. I kept his rate [of $455] for several months,” he said. “People can either sign a new lease [at the new rate] or move out. The building was very rundown, and the city required us to remodel when we purchased it.”
Spiller’s goal when she created the page was to raise $4,500 to help cover the increase in rent so Charbonneau wouldn’t have to move. But that goal was quickly surpassed, and the page now stands at more than $36,000 with more than 800 people making donations. Spiller is working with a lawyer to put that money into a trust for Charbonneau’s future expenses.
“[Charbonneau] is a staple in Glen Ellyn. He’s been Superman for 27 years, and a lot of people have reached out,” Spiller said. “This has been especially stressful for him because things need to be exact, and surprises aren’t welcome in his life. He’s very regimented in his daily life, and change is difficult for him.”
Charbonneau said he’s very grateful for all of the support people have shown him and he is even open to the possibility of finding a new apartment.
“I’d like to thank each and every [person who contributed]. It makes me feel special,” he said. “Moving into a place that’s more affordable and better is desirable."
Spiller said Charbonneau’s building is home to many lower-income individuals, whose rent also is increasing. She wants to make sure the other tenants are treated fairly and legally.
“It’s wrong. [The landlord] has picked on a group of vulnerable people that don’t have the means,” she said. “It seems illegal, and it’s definitely immoral. This is a landlord who lives in the city and took advantage of a population like this. It angers people. Where are these tenants supposed to go?”
Spiller also hopes more people will get a better understanding of autism and Asperger’s syndrome by bringing attention to Charbonneau and his plight.
“You can be a superhero [even if you have autism],” she said. “It hasn’t held [Charbonneau] back. He doesn’t have special needs, he has special powers. He’s beyond beloved in this community.”
How to help