Open Communities’ own Gail Schechter as well as Jan Marsden-Johnson and Gerald Howard of the Deerfield Affordable Housing LLC are the recipients of the 4th Rayna and Marvin Miller Housing Justice Award and the Housing Action Award. They will be honored at Open Communities upcoming Miller Housing justice Benefit on Wednesday evening May 29, 2013. The event, entitled Open Doors Open Minds, will also celebrate our first year as Open Communities and our enhanced mission.
Gail Schechter is the recipient of the Miller Housing Justice Award. She is being honored, on her twentieth anniversary as Open Communities Executive Director, for her community organizing and leadership in fair and affordable housing advocacy in the northern suburbs. From organizing low-income Morton Grove motel tenants, Skokie cab drivers, and Highwood Latino renters fighting displacement, to mostly white and affluent Northbrook, Wilmette, and Winnetka residents advocating for affordable housing in their own communities; from uniting clergy in the wake of hate crimes, to parents and teachers for education funding reform, Gail Schechter has pioneered justice-oriented organizing in the suburbs.
Since 1984, she had been active in promoting fair and affordable housing and has been involved in discrimination investigation, tenant and community organizing, and public policy research and development. Since 1993, she has served as Executive Director of Open Communities. She also teaches public policy for the Masters in Public Policy and Administration program of Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies. Originally from New York City, Gail was Director of Organizing for a Brooklyn non-profit group and later co-founded the Chicago Mutual Housing Network. In February 2012, she was appointed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to fill the “affordable housing advocate” seat on the newly constituted Housing Appeals Board.
Jan Marsden-Johnson and Gerald (Jerry) Howard are the recipients of the Housing Action Award. They are two of the founders of the Deerfield Affordable Housing LLC and they are being awarded for creating the first affordable single family home in Deerfield.
Jan and Jerry are both long-time members of Christ United Methodist Church (CUMC) in Deerfield. CUMC was responsible for building One Deerfield Place. This 98 unit senior affordable housing residence in Downtown Deerfield was completed in 1980. Jan and Jerry serve on its board of directors and Jerry serves as the President of Deerfield Senior Housing Corporation, the owner of One Deerfield Place.
One Deerfield Place remained the only affordable housing in Deerfield until Jan and Jerry, along with others from the board and CUMC, took action. Jerry lent his expertise as a private client advisor to lead the refinancing effort of One Deerfield Place. This generated additional assets and opened the door to new projects that would help fulfill the mission obligations of CUMC. Jan, an advocate for children and adults with special needs, had also wanted for some time to expand affordable housing choices in Deerfield. With these new funds, she spearheaded the expansion of affordable housing to individual homes in Deerfield. Jan and Jerry along with other board members formed the Deerfield Affordable Housing, LLC and they bought their first home in Deerfield last year. In November, a family moved in to the first affordable Deerfield home. The LLC has now completed the process of purchasing their second home in Deerfield, which is planned to be a supported living home for adults with special needs.