Open Communities provides the hub for north suburban Chicago residents of all backgrounds to come together to work for housing, economic and social justice. We help people unite at the grassroots level so they can influence key decision-makers to promote policies, programs, or bricks-and-mortar developments that support healthy and diverse communities.

We organize…

  • Low-income or otherwise disadvantaged tenants threatened with displacement.
  • Residents of all income levels and backgrounds into social justice advocacy groups.
  • Civic and religious leaders and groups into a unified voice for justice.

We serve as an outlet for residents with diverse backgrounds and circumstances—those who are privileged and those who might otherwise be marginalized—to work together in everyday civic life to build neighborly suburban communities.

Highlights

A few examples of the campaigns we’ve helped galvanize.

Education

We helped organize United We Learn (UWL) after Reverend Senator James Meeks brought busloads of Chicago Public School children to New Trier High School on the North Shore to call attention to inequities in education across the state. This grassroots campaign of more than 200 people of diverse backgrounds in favor of quality education and equitable funding for all Illinois children. Open Communities also provides ongoing staff support to UWL. Watch UWL’s documentary film, “The Education They Deserve.”

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Affordable Housing Task Forces

  • Wilmette Cares and the Northbrook Justice Team – two grassroots groups that Open Communities helped to coalesce and to assist in their effort to build community support for affordable, accessible housing.
  • Winnetka Is Neighborly – This group of residents came together to promote the Village’s proposed affordable housing plan and reclaim Winnetka as “more than the sum of its property values.” Open Communities introduced the leaders to one another.
  • Mixed Use for Mallinckrodt – We worked with Wilmette residents and religious leaders to gain affordable housing in the historic Mallinckrodt building and ultimately gained 12 units (of 86 total) for older adults.
  • Clergy United for Affordable Housing – We helped north suburban clergy and other religious leaders come together to promote affordable housing through advocacy and educational programming. One outcome of this campaign was the Faithful Action for Fair & Affordable Housing Curriculum designed for congregation-based education programs.

Tenant Organizing

  • Immigrants – We helped predominantly Mexican families with limited income at what is now Fort Sheridan Place, a 252-unit rental complex in Highwood, organize to prevent a condominium conversion.
  • Mobile Home Residents – We first helped organize tenants of Sunset Village, a manufactured housing community in Glenview, IL, to advocate for their rights. When the park went into foreclosure, we worked with residents to assemble a group of powerful advocates to purchase the community.
  • Motel Tenants – When 200 tenants of Morton Grove motels were threatened with displacement because the Village decided to tear down their homes as part of its Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district, we helped them organize, meet with elected officials, and stage protests as they sought to save their homes.
  • Language Barrier – We helped organize residents at Village Center Apartments to address a variety of issues, the primary one being division between Russian-speaking and English-speaking tenants. The residents formed a council that brought together both groups and worked on the issues within the building.

Coalition of Congregations

We helped organize the ad hoc Religious Leaders Acting Together for Equality (RELATE) coalition in the wake of the hate-motivated murder of Ricky Byrdsong, a African American resident of Skokie who was shot while walking with his children. RELATE also developed a Joint Statement of unity that was most recently released on Justice Day 2015.

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