By Julia Jacobs
The long-time executive director of Open Communities, a nonprofit that has worked with Evanston to ensure equitable housing in the city, will step down in January.
Gail Schechter, who is also a former professor at Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies, is leaving the nonprofit to pursue new opportunities in social justice, the organization announced last week. Schechter, the organization’s first full-time executive director, led Open Communities for 22 years — more than half of its 43-year history.
During her tenure, Schechter organized coalitions in affluent North Shore suburbs around affordable housing and co-conducted a federal government-sponsored study of housing discrimination in Chicago. This year, Schechter has been at the helm of a program called the 2015 Justice Project, which aims to encouraging grassroots organizing in the northern suburbs surrounding housing inequality.
Schechter will remain a member of a state housing board, where she focuses on enforcing a 2003 Illinois law that requires certain communities to adopt affordable housing plans.
“It has been a privilege to serve these wonderful communities and to work side by side with so many who wholeheartedly believe that our cities and villages thrive when our neighborhoods are culturally diverse, and everyone has equal access to housing, educational and economic opportunities,” Schechter said in a news release.
Schechter will continue to lead Open Communities until mid-January to transition the organization to a new executive director.
“Gail has been a visionary, an unflinching supporter to thousands in the northern suburbs who have endured unfair socioeconomic disadvantages, and a mentor to countless others who have sought to organize on their behalf,” said Liliana Fargo, board president of Open Communities, in the news release.