Thanks for Rolling a Strike With MTO on Behalf of Chicago Area Renters

MTO hosted its Annual Bowl-a-thon on Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Diversey River Bowl. More than 75 people participated in donating, bowling, and sharing their talents to ensure “fun” was key to MTO’s fundraiser. Thank you tenant leaders, contributors, supporters, staff, board, and volunteers for rolling a strike with us. So far, MTO raised $7,789 to support our Tenant Stabilization programs that prevent homelessness and displacement. We are only $211 from goal. If you missed the event or your opportunity to give, it’s not too late to take a turn with us as we prepare to roll a spare next! No gift is too small or too large in building the movement for housing justice, so if you can donate here or contact Aisha @aisha@tenants-rights.org.

MTO’s Eviction Prevention Specialist, Philip DeVon with Holli & Al DeVon- “Top Bowlers” at 2019 Bowl-a-thon

To Solve The Housing Crisis, We Must See Evictions As a Moral Issue.

After 15 years of living in what could legally be considered a storage unit, Mr. Piper was served a 30-day notice telling him to get out his unit or go to court and face eviction. While most of us would not consider living in a storage unit, Mr. Piper, a Vietnam Veteran and victim of Agent Orange, did so happily for the last 15 years. He did this not only because he lives with a disability and it was the only thing he could afford on his monthly fixed income, but also because it allowed him to live in the neighborhood he wanted to live in, Hyde Park, Chicago. 

Mr. Piper reported that his management company has changed hands five to six times over the last 15 years, and while conditions never improved, none of the other companies tried to put him on the streets. When he reported a bed bug problem to the latest landlord, two weeks later he received a letter terminating his tenancy. The letter stated that it was unsafe for him to continue living there, as it was not a legal unit.

Is this what the housing crisis in Chicago has come to? Where low-income tenants live in substandard housing, with an insect infestation, and without proper plumbing just to have a roof over their heads? Most of the renters calling MTO’s tenants’ rights hotline are fighting to keep their homes in neighborhoods where the rent is too high and/or repairs are going undone. Therefore, tenants make do with what they can afford, in a neighborhood they consider home.

While the management company did offer Mr. Piper a $1000 to be out in two weeks, he felt that it was not an honest or realistic offer, since they knew he had been there 15 years and that he lives with a disability. We also feel like the owners could have done more. Why not offer Mr. Piper another unit in the building, or more time to be out and relocation assistance? While we cannot fault them for closing what may be an illegal unit, we can fault them for retaliating by serving the notice only after Mr. Piper complained about bed bugs or for not looking for other ways to resolve the problem, not the least of which is creating affordable housing for all.

If not YOU, who? If not NOW, when? The change we seek, is in the mirror.

At MTO we believe you and everyday people are the leaders of change within community and our society. We are all reflections of the positive change our communities and systems need, in order to listen, feel, act, and meet the needs of those most impacted by inequity. Thanks to all MTO supporters and contributors for investing in change with your time, energy, money, and talent to preserve access to affordable housing.

It costs $20 to answer a caller seeking information about their rights via MTO’s Tenants’ Rights Hotline. It costs $250 to assist a renting family through MTO’s Eviction and Displacement Prevention program. Eviction can costs a family over $2,000 to secure new housing; the cost is extends to student success, employee performance, and an entire’s family wellness and peace of mind. Therefore, no donation is too small or too large because change requires investment, and we are grateful for every penny shared.

If you haven’t had the opportunity (or wish to give a little more) to move and shake the needle for housing equity and stability for Cook County renters with MTO- now is your chance. Click here to donate today. We are $2,500 away from our end of fiscal year individual giving goal of $35,000. Help us reach this goal by June 30.

MTO Spring Event was a Hit!

On, May 8th MTO held its Annual Spring Fundraiser “Champions of Freedom & Fairness”. This years’ theme paid homage to community groups and advocates working to advance housing justice. Awardees included, the National Public Housing Museum, Casa Maravilla Tenants Association, Kandyse McCoy-Cunningham, and Lifetime Housing Champion, Taft West. With the support of sponsors, donors, and members MTO raised $20,000 to support Chicago area renters seeking support and increase tenant stability to prevent homelessness. There is still time and opportunity for you to support tenant organizing and renter stability if you couldn’t join us last month at Masada Restaurant- click here for more information

Thank You to ALL our 2019 Sponsors

Diamond Sponsor- Related MidwesGold Sponsors- West Town Law Offices; Faith & Mark SpencerChicago Community Loan Fund
Silver Sponsors Community Investment Corporation (CIC)Elevate EnergyJoan Fenstersmaker Attorney at LawLaw Offices of Hall; Adams; Loevy & Loevy, Civil Rights, Law Firm; People’s Law Office;Viatorian Community of the Province of Chicago; Joseph Vitu, Attorney at LawThink Inc.Network-It-Easy ; Everywhere WirelessEverywhere WirelessLaw Offices of Berton N. Ring, P.C Lawyers’ Committee for Better HousingMichelle Liffick 
Bronze Sponsors– Law Office of David S. Morris;; Irene Dymkar, Civil Rights Attorney
Supportive Sponsor- Masada’s Restaurant

Bronzeville Residents Take A Stand Against Displacement

When tenants organize, great things happen! Their power gained and their power leveraged empowers them to affect qualitative housing change in their lives.
In the beginning of May, the tenants living on Drexel Boulevard contacted MTO about an invalid demolition notice posted on their doors. The notice essentially said that they had to move in 15 days and vacate because demolition work would start at the end of May-typical gentrification scare tactic. At the time of the call to MTO, there was stagnant sewage water in the basement and the lobby, the building’s elevator was in disrepair and rodents and roaches reportedly thrived in the units. A couple of ceilings were caving in and to top it off, tenants were not able to receive their mail because the front door was inaccessible-and some of these tenants needed medical supplies for serious health conditions. Providing little or no maintenance to buildings is another tactic some property owners use to push tenants out of their buildings.  
MTO and the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing was immediately involved and tenants received a workshop on their housing rights. Two weeks later, tenants organized a tenant association and change was already happening.As indicated on their demolition notice the management company (312 Properties LLC) sent a crew to start demolition at the building. The front lobby was demolished; they got rid of garbage bins, and tore out laundry room washers and dryers. The back porch stairwells were full of garbage and rats.
Tenants who at first were afraid just to meet and talk about their housing issues, were now indignant and outraged. They had gotten no notice from the work crew, there were no city issued work permits posted anywhere on the building. Tenants took immediate action! They flooded 311 and the management company with calls for two straight days. They got inspection reference numbers and most importantly got the city to stop the work at the building. The city posted a bright orange stop work sticker at the main entrance of the building. Illegal demolition has now ceased and the management company had created a lockout situation in violation of the Chicago Landlord and Residents Ordinance. The management company had no choice but to come out a meet with new tenant association and hear their demands. While problems persist, the building is now clean, the sewage problem is gone, the mail delivery issue is being solved, demolished walls now have plastic covers and the porches are now clean.  The association is currently negotiating relocation funds and a move-out timetable. The alderwomen got an urgent request for a meeting and they are prepared to go to the media with their housing issues. The tenants are prepared to fight back!From fear to courage, the organizing of tenants in Bronzeville is an example of tenant power against housing adversity. Chicago needs more tenants fighting back against inhumane property owners and their enforcement management companies.

Landlord Calls ICE on Immigrant Couple for Requesting Deposit Back

Getting their security deposit back was supposed to be a simple task. All they needed to do is tell their old landlord where to send the check. But for this immigrant couple, a routine housing transaction soon became a life-changing nightmare.

The northwest-side couple had just moved from their apartment, leaving it clean and tidy, and requested that their landlord return their security deposit. Instead of doing what is right, the landlord became irate and refused to return their money. The landlord even threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the husband, an undocumented immigrant.

A demonstrator holds a sign reading “No Human Is Illegal” during a protest in Chicago against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Much to their shock and horror, he followed through on his threat. ICE came out and arrested the husband, who has been in their custody ever since. Now, a Chicago woman stands to lose much more than her security deposit. “This isn’t the first time we’ve received calls from renters whose landlords are threatening to call ICE on them”, said Javier Ruiz, a Hotline Counselor at MTO. This type of blatant, racist retaliation cannot and should not be tolerated in Chicago, a town that takes pride in its reputation as a sanctuary city. In 2018, A federal judge sided with Chicago, ruling that Trump does not have the authority to withhold federal funding just because it is a sanctuary city.

Today, we must resist policies like HUD’s proposed new rule that would prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving federal housing assistance. We must strengthen protections for undocumented Chicagoans. No human is “illegal”; landlords cannot be allowed to uproot families by reporting them to ICE! We must do all we can to ensure that no one is denied housing, public services, or resources based on their immigration status.

Tenants March on HUD HQ, Win Meeting with Top HUD Official

May 10th 2019

Mrs Johnson, a resident at
Barbara Jean Wright Courts, speaks about the living conditions at the complex.

Chicago, IL. – Twenty-five tenants and their supporters picketed outside the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offices at 77 W Jackson in downtown Chicago today.  The tenants were sick and tired of inaction on the part of their landlords and the lack of oversight by HUD. One tenant asked, “How can I celebrate Mother’s Day in my home when my kitchen cabinets are falling apart?”  

It was almost a year ago today that HUD representatives met with tenants at a Town Hall meeting of subsidized renters organized by the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO).  At the Town Hall, HUD representatives promised action. They assured tenants they would come out to the buildings and hold the landlords accountable to very basic housing standards.  

For the tenants living in Barbara Jean Wright Courts, Germano Millgate and Indian Trails Apartments, HUD has not made good on its promise.  Tenants are living with rats, bed bugs, holes in the walls, elevators that don’t work, plumbing problems and more. One parent, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, is worried that DCFS is going to take her children away because the conditions are so bad.

Tenants were preparing to deliver a letter to HUD officials demanding a meeting. As the tenants chanted, “HUD don’t delay, Repairs in time for Mother’s Day!” outside of HUD’s downtown office, Joseph Galvan, HUD’s Regional Administrator for Region V, came out to talk.  Jesse Johnson of Barbara Jean Wright Court asked Mr. Galvan to meet with the tenants and to inspect the complexes.  Mr. Galvan agreed to inspect the above three apartment complexes and to meet with the tenants in his office on May 31st.  The tenants left feeling fired up and ready to keep the pressure on HUD and their landlords to provide decent and safe housing.

Joseph Galvin (left), HUD Regional Adminstrator, talks with HUD tenants outside his office on May 10, 2019.

You’re Invited to the Party

Get Your Tickets to MTO’s Spring Affair
as we celebrate
Champions of Freedom & Fairness


Wednesday, May 8, 2019 6pm-8pm
  Masada’s Restaurant, 2206 N. California Ave. (Lower Level)

Sponsorship Opportunities are Available (here)
General Admission Tickets $75.00
MTO Members only rate $65.00

Click here for Tickets

This years’ Champions of Freedom & Fairness Honorees

Thank You to ALL our 2019 Sponsors

Diamond Sponsor- Related Midwest Gold Sponsors- West Town Law Offices; Faith & Mark Spencer; Chicago Community Loan Fund
Silver Sponsors Community Investment Corporation (CIC); Elevate Energy; Joan Fenstersmaker Attorney at Law; Law Offices of Hall; Adams; Loevy & Loevy, Civil Rights, Law Firm; People’s Law Office; Viatorian Community of the Province of Chicago; Joseph Vitu, Attorney at Law; Think Inc.; Network-It-Easy ; Everywhere Wireless; Everywhere Wireless, Law Offices of Berton N. Ring, P.C Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, Michelle Liffick
Bronze SponsorsLaw Office of David S. Morris;; Irene Dymkar, Civil Rights Attorney
Supportive Sponsor- Masada’s Restaurant

For general questions and info about sponsorship opportunities, membership status, ticket purchase, donations, and accessibility contact Aisha Truss-Miller, Development Manager (773) 292-4980 ext. 236 or aisha@tenants-rights.org