A Home for the Holidays, and Beyond

Caroline, a 73-year old retiree living on the western edge of Humboldt Park, is so grateful for MTO’s new Eviction Prevention Collaboration.  Caroline lives on Social Security.  On the third Wednesday of each month, she receives her SSI check and pays her rent.  Unfortunately, Caroline ended up in the hospital recently and suddenly couldn’t pay the rent.  Caroline informed her landlord that the rent was going to be late.  The landlord agreed and told Caroline could pay the late rent in installments.

When Caroline went to make her next payment, the landlord suddenly refused the rent and gave her a 30-day notice to vacate her home of the past 5 years by the end of December. The landlord further threatened her by telling her she was going to start showing the unit the very next day.  Frantic and not knowing what to do, Caroline called MTO’s Eviction Prevention Collaboration.  MTO’s case manager suggested that she talk with the landlord before writing a letter. The landlord said no, and told her to just “get out.” With help from MTO’s case manager, Caroline wrote a letter which reiterated the verbal agreement between they had made.  The landlord did not respond to the letter.  The case manager suggested she write one more letter and try paying rent when her next check arrives. 

This time the landlord accepted the rent.  Caroline was ecstatic.  There would be no court case. The sheriff would not be coming to her home. She would still have a home after the holidays.  You can make sure that Caroline and others like her continue to have a home by donating to MTO.

Every year there are more than 25,000 evictions filed in Cook County.  Many more are evicted outside of the court system. Thousands of tenants are displaced.  Their lives disrupted.  Their communities destabilized.  With your financial help, MTO can help stop evictions.  Donate now.

Giving Back to Community

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#Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. It’s grown as part of the kick off to the holiday season with vast choices of social causes to support online and via social media platforms. #Giving Tuesday is simply a Day of Giving.

For MTO, like many organizations working to build a fair and just society, Giving Tuesday outreach is about more than charity. Giving Tuesday is an opportunity for us all to invest in social change. No gift is too small or too large when it comes to supporting Chicago & Cook County renters through the work of MTO. Every year we serve over 10,000 low-income households. These families are vulnerable because their housing is at risk.  And like you, tenants want and need is access to healthy, safe, and affordable housing to stabilize their lives and our city’s’ future. Without a stable and healthy home, children are stressed and less likely to excel in school, parents and young adults struggle to sustain employment, and emergency room visits become routine; even worse, unstable housing may lead to a family’s homelessness or displacement. Our communities are resilient and will grow and thrive if given the opportunity.  At MTO, we fight with renters for housing stability and equity, which is needed and long overdue. You can join us in taking a stand by donating and volunteering.  Donate now to invest in the change Chicago’s renters and communities deserve.

Read about how the Borner Family took action for their health, housing, and stability here:

Ms. Borner lives on the Southside with her daughter and granddaughter.  The family was referred to MTO because of severe housing repairs.  The home had major water damage which resulted in significant areas of mold, chipping paint, and large holes in the ceiling.  Both Ms. Borner and her daughter suffer from asthma which under the apartment conditions could lead to them being hospitalized.  The family welcomed MTO’s Healthy Homes Organizer into their home to do an assessment. After the inspection she discussed the apartment’s health homes hazards with the family.  MTO worked with the family to document the problems and sent photos and letters to the landlord requesting repairs.  At first the landlord did nothing.  So the family followed up with more pictures and a statement from their doctor stating the housing problems could be triggering the family’s asthma and impacting other health concerns.  After going over their rights and getting insight on landlord retaliation the family decided to call the City and requested an inspection from the Department of Buildings.  After the inspection the landlord finally acted.  Now all the issues have been repaired. The Borner Family used the tools and support of MTO to stabilize their health and housing. The still live in their Southside apartment and now they are breathing easier.

It’s stories of families like the Borner’s that inspires MTO to keep pushing housing solutions to advance the accessibility and stability of healthy affordable housing that every child and person needs and deserves. Housing is a Human Right!! Take a stand with MTO. Invest in change this holiday season. Your donation makes a world of difference.

 

Tenant Fights Retaliation and Wins

Natasha’s neighborhood in Gresham.

When Natasha Johnson moved into her new apartment in May 2017, she was excited to finally have a place that was in her budget and close to her job. However, within a couple of months of moving in, Natasha noticed mice in her dream apartment. “The manager said they would bring out an exterminator,” Natasha explained. After months of no action, Natasha took matters into her own hands and purchased some poison and traps.

The traps and poison did their job, but the safety concerns started to worry Natasha, “When I bring my grandson over, I have to put the poison in a place where he can’t get to it.” Furthermore, bed bugs and a cold draft from a gap in the door became problems as summer turned to fall. That’s when, Natasha decided to call MTO’s Tenants Rights Hotline. Hotline staff provided her with assistance and sample letters for Bed Bugs and repair requests.

Natasha asked her building manager to hire an exterminator and fix the gap in the door.  Months went by. “I didn’t sign up for this,” Natasha expressed. Still paying her full rent and fed up with the service, Natasha called the City of Chicago’s 311 assistance line to request the City inspect her unit. The apartment was not up to code.  The City fined Natasha’s landlord.

When they got fined, that’s when they got really mad,” said Natasha. In December 2017, building management claimed they had not received Natasha’s rent, though she had the money order receipt to prove it, plus had been recorded on video dropping the payment at the collection box. They served Natasha a Five-Day Eviction Notice, which Natasha then paid by the deadline. Management again claimed they had not received payment, and filed an eviction. 

Luckily, Natasha stayed in touch with MTO throughout the process, and they had advised her to document her conversations with building management and keep all her payment receipts. Then MTO connected Natasha with Attorney Joan Fenstermaker who represented Natasha in eviction court. Ms. Fenstermaker proved the management’s actions were retaliation, and Natasha was able to stay in her apartment.

Recently, Natasha’s landlord fired the responsible employees responsible. And, Natasha has been spreading the word about her success with the Tenants Rights Hotline. Her advice to others in a similar situation is, “Don’t leave, fight for it. If you pay your rent and don’t do anything wrong, there shouldn’t be a problem. I did every step they [Hotline staff] told me, and it worked out in my favor. You got to fight for your rights. I did and ended up winning.

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right: When It Inevitably Leads to Homelessness

On Monday, a mother called the Metropolitan Tenants Organization’s hotline because her son had stood up and laughed during a high profile criminal case after the judge had warned the crowd that no interruptions would be tolerated. The judged then ordered her son who has a mental illness into custody and sentenced him to 40 days in jail for criminal contempt of court.

It is difficult to imagine that sentencing a person with a bi-polar disorder to jail for his laughter will have any positive outcomes. Already, ramifications are being felt that extend beyond the 40-day sentence. His mother called our office because the onsite manager of her son’s apartment building was evicting her son because of the arrest. When his mother tried to tender the rent, the manager said, “No! Get out!” Her son had lived in the apartment for 15 years. This means that when he gets out of jail he will have no place to call home. This is one more devastating blow to an outburst of laughter in the courtroom.

While all this may be within bounds or our “justice” system, the end result is cruel and inhumane. It is not difficult to predict what will happen next. With an eviction on his record and a criminal conviction, few, if any, landlords will rent him an apartment. Thus without intervention, we will end up with another homeless person on the streets of Chicago. These circumstances are unique, but it is a situation faced by all too many people. This is but one of many examples of how a person can get caught up in events that quickly spiral out of control. We live in a very unforgiving system where housing is more of a privilege than a right.

MTO has partnered with the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing to start an eviction prevention campaign. We are attempting to negotiate a reasonable response, which will allow this individual to stay in his home. Stay in touch. Tell others about this case and consider becoming a hotline volunteer so that you can help tenants and be a part of humane response to problems that focuses on keeping people in their home.

June is National Healthy Homes Month… Do Those in Power Care?

June is Healthy Homes Month. The need to recognize this month poses the question: do policy makers, CEOs and property owners really care about people’s health or the housing they live in?

US health care expenditures totaled $3.3 trillion in 2016. This massive spending really did not help Tolanda McMullen’s family, especially her son who was severely poisoned by the lead paint in their Chicago home. Tolanda was shocked by her son’s poisoning as she felt lead was an issue of the past. It Is not and the poisoning haunts her family to this day. “My son will be forever impacted by lead and what is worse is this could have been prevented.” The sad fact is that so many illnesses, poisonings and hospital visits could be prevented if people’s homes were safe, healthy and affordable.

In the case of Tolanda’s son, all her landlord needed to do was to follow lead abatement protocols and repair the lead tainted windows. Profit won out. Window replacement is expensive. The landlord rented her an unhealthy and unsafe home because he could. After all, the assumption is that low-cost housing has problems otherwise it would not be low-income. This flawed belief is allowed to continue by policy makers and political leaders who excuse substandard conditions by saying that government cannot afford to do better.

For the entire month of June, MTO will tweet, write, photograph and otherwise scream out over social media to demand action on the part of public officials and property owners. No child should ever be poisoned by lead from their home. No child should miss school because home-based hazards triggered a child’s asthma. We ask you to support this campaign to forward these messages and images to friends, aldermen, the mayor, the governor and the president. In the end, there is nothing more important than our health and having a safe decent home in which to live.

Celebrate with us! MTO June Fundraiser

MTO’s Annual Fundraiser is around the corner and this year’s theme is in recognition of women of color who take action to fight for housing justice and human rights, like Shirley Chisholm– an advocate for civil and human rights, as well as, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives 50 years ago and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Our theme drives home a notable Chisholm quote:

If they don’t give you a seat at the table bring a folding chair.”

             

Like Chisholm, MTO and our supporters are committed to building shared, collective power and responsibility through the education and empowerment of renters in need. People most impacted by decisions and policies must have seats at the decision making tables because the inclusion of their voice, expertise, and creativity is what democracy looks like. Democracy is an inclusive action that requires the time, energy, and investment of us all to create positive social change. Thank you for supporting housing justice, equity, and human rights with MTO!

Get your tickets here! Join us in celebrating the impact women of color who have not only brought their voice, brilliance, and folding chair to the decision making table, but who empower women, youth, communities of color, and everyday people to use their voice, share their brilliance, and place their chairs aside sisters at the table.

Honorees include: Pamela Silas (Alfonso); Dr. Beth E. Richie; Deborah Bennett; and Tolanda McMullen.

 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 6 pm to 8 pm

 

(doors open at 5:45 pm)

2206 N. California Ave.
Chgo. IL 60647

Tickets Prices:

$75 General
$65 Nonprofit Employees
$60 for MTO Members
(Updated Membership Req’d for member rate)
   Sponsors as of 6/1/2018
Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law
Landon Bone Baker Architects
West Town Law Office
David Orr
                          For more info email Aisha Truss-Miller  or dial 773-292-4980 ext. 236 

 

“How-To” Guide – Dealing with Extreme Cold

Landlords in Chicago must heat residential buildings to at least 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees overnight (from September 15 to June 1). 

If you are unable to resolve a heating problem with your landlord, call our Hotline between 1-5PM, M-F at 773-292-4988. You can also send your landlord a 24-hour notice using Squared Away Chicago.

It is vital to know your rights and to look out for the homeless, elderly, and your most vulnerable neighbors during extremely cold weather.

  • If you are worried that your pipes might freeze, leave the tap dripping overnight to ensure they do not freeze. Also, put a towel under your door to help keep the heat inside.
  • When it snows, make sure to clear off sidewalks for the elderly, disabled and young children in strollers. For snow removal assistance, call 311 or click HERE
  • Keep extra hats, gloves and scarves with you when you’re on the move. Your extra gloves might save someone’s fingers from frostbite.

Call 3-1-1 to:

  • Request a well-being check for someone suffering due to extreme weather
  • Report inadequate heat in a residential building (inspections can take up to 3 days!)
  • Learn about programs that assist with home heating costs
  • Connect to shelter and supportive services

IMPORTANT NOTE: Anytime you call 311, get a reference # so you have a record of your call!

The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) operates six Warming Centers during work weekdays when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. DFSS Warming Centers are not open on weekday holidays unless specifically indicated. Additional facilities are opened as needed including Senior Centers, libraries, and Park District buildings, so it is important to call 3-1-1 for info concerning Warming Center locations during off hours and on weekday holidays. The centers below are open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday (but hours may be extended during extreme cold.)

DFSS WARMING CENTERS 

 Garfield Center (Open 24/7)
10 S. Kedzie Ave.

Chicago, IL 60612

Englewood Center
1140 W. 79th Street

Chicago, IL 60620

King Center
4314 S. Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL 60653

  North Area 
845 W. Wilson Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

South Chicago
8650 S. Commercial Ave.
Chicago, IL 60617

Trina Davila
4357 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60639