To Our Valued Tenant Members, Volunteers, Partners, Donors, Board, Staff, and Community: In our work together to create equitable solutions to address inherently unjust housing disparities in Chicago and across the nation, we need to confront the ugly history of structural racism and white supremacy. Our vision of safe, decent and affordable housing is based in the knowledge that in order to thrive, people must have a home and a community in which they feel safe. Unfortunately, members of the Black community do not feel -and are not- safe since their very right to live and breathe is under routine attack. As a social justice organization that educates, organizes and empowers tenants, MTO has to call out the historical and ongoing immoral injustices imposed on Black Americans through state-sanctioned murder and violence.  Our passion for justice compels us to act and join the protests happening in the streets of Chicago. Black Lives Matter is a human rights movement that continues to bring awareness and demand justice for racist violations inflicted upon Black people. MTO stands in solidarity with Chicago’s and the nation’s Black communities to demand justice and an end to police murders. 


John Bartlett

Message from Aisha Truss-Miller, Development Manager 

Courtesy of an unknown Black Lives Matter protester and unknown photographer.

I come to you both brokenhearted and hopeful, exhausted and with loss of appetite. Chicago gun violence, COVID-19, more work via working remotely, televised lynchings, heightened anti-Black policing, profiling, and violence during national uprisings against state-sanctioned violence against Black people- too much BS. Composing this message is very emotional.  I hope this message is artful, strong, bold, honest, and articulate, so the goal of the message is received with open ears and open hearts. Finding the “right” words is a challenge because I am enraged, depressed, afraid, sleep deprived, and anxiously shaking as I type with clenched teeth, boiling blood, and a tear-stained face. 

I’m tired of anti-Black racism and its toll on my spirit; it is an unwanted weight carried by the spirit, mind, and body of Black youth and Black people working from [community] blocks, board rooms, courtrooms, classrooms, and other spaces. We have no choice but to carry this hefty load, that we aren’t responsible for packing. The labor of carrying it and unpacking it over and over across generations is cumbersome and traumatic. Unjustly, there has been no compensation for the genocide, bondage, and torture of my people.  Hundreds of years after our ancestors were kidnapped, raped, bred, and murdered Black Americans are still lawfully terrorized and treated less than human. We carry the load with hunched-backs as society imposes unrealistically high expectations of “properly” challenging anti-Black racism in all its forms. 

Anti-Black racism is inflicted upon us by systems built on racist policies and practices, by communities of color, by our allies, and by the people we share African ancestry with; and, at its root is white supremacy which produces shiny fruit that’s rotten to the core. Anti-Black racism is a world Black people navigate every second and everywhere- our work, our play, and our nightmares. Anti-Black racism determines where we live, how long we can live there, the ability to live and breathe, the ability to be born healthy, eat well, learn well, be treated well, getting paid well, and access for space to heal and be well.  

When it comes to challenging anti-Black racism there are no exemptions, no free-zones, and no space for replies such as, “she’s preaching to the choir”. Right now, there is only space to actively listen, learn more, and self-reflect to further decolonize ideals and traditions that give strength to anti-Black racism.  Right now, there is only space to act and continue the uprising with intentional conversations and actions with your family and community- with our families and communities. Now is the time to seriously re-evaluate the structures, policies, and inclusion of the agencies and institutions we are part of and support, including corporations, non-profits, faith institutions, and government.  We will not accept the legacy of failing to deliver justice to families of Black people killed by police and white supremacists. We will not accept the legacy of failing to deliver justice to Black people in general. We demand justice now.

The uprising is said to have threatened the peace and comfort of so many.  I’ve been searching for peace and comfort my whole life. Searching for it as hard as my parents, grandparents, and great-grandmother did. Her name was Mary Briscoe- a sharecropper from Mississippi who moved to Chicago around 1940 to escape the continued trauma of anti-Black racism, specifically labor exploitation, the Jim Crow south, and lynchings. 80 years later a lynching of a Black man in America is caught on tape, yet again. Yes, a lynching- the act of killing a person accused or suspected of a criminal act, that’s judged and prosecuted publicly and without due process as a form of power and control (and we know that even the due process is unfair and rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness). 

Black Americans radically dream and imagine liberation. We organize and advocate for transformation, and work on our own decolonization- and this is expected of us. We share ourselves and our money with little to no acknowledgement- it is expected. We share our time, talents, and intellect voluntarily, for unfair wages, and for others to hijack and label as their own- and it is expected. We have given love and respect in abundance, even when it was not reciprocated- and, it is always expected. We strive to build movements for an equitable and just society where Black Lives Matter, and that everyone will benefit from. You can expect peace when Black Americans get the peace and justice we deserve. The peace and justice and that is long overdue to the Black community.

So I need for you to Say It, Scream It, and Mean It- “Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Atatiana Jefferson. Charleena Lyles. Tamir Rice. Sandra Bland. Laquan McDonald. Rekia Boyd. Trayvon Martin. Aiyana Jones. Eric Garner. Michael Brown Jr. Oscar Grant. Philando Castile. Terrence Crutcher. Kayla Moore.
Walter Scott. Samuel Dubose. Freddie Gray. And the list goes on, and on, and on. 

Global webinar on tenant struggles in the COVID crisis: Saturday May 9 at 1 pm CST.

Housing Is A Human Right!

Global webinar on tenant struggles in the COVID crisis: Saturday May 9 at 1 pm CST. The National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) sister organization in the UK, Defend Council Housing, is hosting a Global Webinar on Saturday, May 9 at 2 pm EST/ 1pm CST! Panelists from Defend Council Housing; a private housing organizing group in London; a tenants movement group in Barcelona; CASA in the Bronx; and Michael Kane from NAHT will be featured!

Just click on here for Youtube Live and here for Facebook Live Saturday May 9 at 1 pm CST.

Know Your Renters’ Rights during COVID-19 TONIGHT LIVE Q&A, 6pm- TUNE IN!

Please join the Metropolitan Tenants Organization tonight for a “Crash Course on Tenants Rights: What Chicago- area Renters need to know before the 1st of the month.

Tonight!! Thursday, April 30th 6pm CST live-streamed. Be sure to get your FREE TICKETS here with Eventbrite

This workshop will review what tenants need to know for May 1st and we will take questions live. We will be discussing what your rights are if you cannot pay your rent, your rights on evictions, and what to do in case of an illegal lockout, and other critical issues for renters.

Panelists will include MTO’s Eviction Prevention Specialist, Philip DeVon & Affordable Housing Preservation Community Organizer, David Wilson.

Get your FREE TICKETS here with Eventbrite or follow to get the notification when the workshop goes live.

Click HERE to support MTO’s critical work today. Share this link with friends, family, and community who can make a donation for housing justice on Tuesday, May 5th for a global day of giving. #Giving Tuesday Now.

Be well, and be safe. And see you tonight!

What’s New at MTO? Plus, Ways to Support Chicago Renters with MTO

Dear Friend,

Thank you for being a part of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization community.

While it was a difficult decision, our team decided to cancel the Annual Spring Affair which was scheduled for Tuesday, April 21st at 6:30pm because we care about your safety and well-being.

Although we won’t be gathering in-person, MTO has #5 ways outlined below to help raise $30,000 for our Tenant Stabilization Programs and Services as we work to prevent homelessness and keep low-income families housed. 

We are experiencing high call volume about threats of eviction, illegal lock-outs, unreasonable rent increases, and concerns about the lack of precautions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are dedicated to giving Chicago renters the answers and support needed in real-time to stabilize their housing. If you or someone you know are having issues with their landlord or apartment call our Tenants’ Rights Hotline at 773-292-4988. For swift results get your answers and online tools via our app and web page here at Squared Away Chicago.

We believe that with your help, we can lessen the impact of coronavirus on our mission to educate, empower, and organize low-income renters about their rights. Thank you for your support during this challenging time for our organization and our community as a whole.

Sincerely, Team MTO

#5 Ways You Can Continue to Support MTO

#1. Donate Your Ticket(s) OR make a donation here to MTO’s Tenant Stabilization Programs & Services

While the Annual Spring Affair is cancelled and we explore ways to get together virtually, you can choose to donate the cost of your ticket(s) to benefit housing stability for low-income renters in Chicago. You can choose to donate here and or share the link with friends and colleagues. If you seek a refund contact Aisha-

 #2. Make your online purchases through Amazon Smiles.

MTO supports human rights. We stand in solidarity with labor movements for access and justice, like Amazon workers in Chicago who organized and won PTO for all workers. Our constituents who are Amazon shoppers can choose to shop and reply “Metropolitan Tenants Organization’ when asked about your supporting organization. 0.05% of proceeds from your purchase goes to MTO. 

#3. Stay tuned with Chicago Renters & Housing Advocates via MTO Weekly E-Newsletter

Choose to read and share our weekly e-news alerts with stories about what Chicago renters are dealing with during COVID-19 pandemic, housing resources, and updates on our fundraising, housing justices campaigns, and policies. 

#4. Let’s See if Your Employer Will Double Your Donation

Right now, every little bit helps. If you’re able to donate here today, together let’s find out if your company will match your gift. 

#5. Join Us on Facebook Live can’t gather in person, but we can still gather! Join us in upcoming fun-raising events and discussions on Facebook Live. Follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss it!  

Renters Resources during COVID-19

What You Should Know

(Updated on 4/24/20)

There is a mandatory state-wide “shelter in place” order until 5/30/20.

This executive order does not apply to essential services that you may need to leave your house for including physician visits, vet visits, grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, essential infrastructure and public transit.

Read the full order here or visit the questions and answer page here to see if your industry is included in the list of essential services.

Tips for Chicago Renters

  • Ask your landlord or property manager how they are responding to the crisis and what they are doing to ensure residents safety. 

  • Call/text/email your neighbors, friends, and family, especially if they are Seniors.

Are You Unable to Pay Rent?

  • Talk to your landlord or property manager right now if you anticipate an issue paying rent. Put all your conversations in writing.
  • If you live in private market housing, use the sample letter below to draft a letter to your landlord immediately.
  • If you live in subsidized housing, make sure you request a re-certification immediately. Use the sample letter below to send a request to your housing provider.


*For more info about a specific topic, click any headline below*

How to Get Help

To apply for unemployment benefits, click here.

To apply for Medicaid health insurance, click here.

To apply for SNAP food benefits, click here.

To apply for Rental Assistance with IL Dept. of Housing, click here.

To apply for Rental Assistance with the City of Chicago, click here.

  • Food Resources– The Greater Chicago Food Depository has been buying more food and packaging thousands of grab and go meals so families can maintain social distancing. The outreach team is also available to assist people who need to get connected to the snap program. Their number is (773) 8430-5416. Food pantry- Care for Real

NOTE:  All TANF and SNAP work requirements are currently suspended until mid-April, at least. Individuals who have a work requirement will not be penalized for not meeting at this time. You will be excused for “good cause” and will continue to receive your SNAP and TANF benefits

How can I get help from HUD or CHA?  

  • HUD is open for business but will NOT accept walk-in visitors at this time. They will provide services via phone/online while they focus efforts on serving people most in need.
    • Online: Click Here
    • Email: Send an email to:  (note: underscore between IL_ and Webmanager)
    • By Phone: Call your local office: (312) 353-6236

  • CHA is open for business but will NOT accept walk-in visitors at this time.
    • By Phone: Call your local office: (312) 742-8500
  • No matter who your housing provider is, you should contact them immediately if your income has changed. Send them a letter requesting an income re-certification.

More COVID-19 Resources

City of Chicago Corona Virus Response Center

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Utilities
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Illinois Housing Action’s comprehensive COVID-19 Resources website

  • State, County and local resource lists
  • Situation updates
  • Information specific to renters who need assistance

Centers for Disease Control website

  • Downloadable factsheets and flyers in English, Spanish and Simplified Chinese
  • Health and hygiene recommendations
  • Travel guidance
  • Situation updates
  • Information specific to schools, workplaces, etc.

Illinois Department of Public Health COVID-19 website

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Regularly posted updates on new cases in Illinois
  • Updated cautions and advisories
  • Recommendations specific to Illinois

Cook County Department of Public Health website 

  • Information for healthcare providers and communities
  • Detailed health and hygiene recommendations
  • Contact information for suburban Cook County
  • Information for individuals: Clean, Cover and Contain


Illinois Dept. of Public Health’s hotline: 800-889-3931 or email

The City of Chicago hotline: 312-746-4835 or email 

Have a specific question?


Do you live in Evanston? Check out the virtual training below:

Working Remotely, Our Offices are Closed in response to COVID-19

To our community In order to protect the health and safety of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization’s staff, volunteers, members and community, our office are closed until March 30th.  More communications from our team is underway. Thank you for patience. 

We encourage everyone to follow CDC and Chicago Department of Public Health guidelines to limit social contact as much as possible.  

MTO’s staff and volunteers will continue to answer our tenants’ crisis line and to provide as much assistance as possible over the phone from our homes.  We promise to remain vigilant during this period of emergency to advocate for the housing rights of everyone.  If you need assistance, please call 773-292-4988 to reach our crisis hotline and leave message. 

Additional Resources on COVID-19
We understand the importance of timely, accurate and helpful communication to visit trusted sources of public health information,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chicago Department of Health
World Health Organization

The American Public Health Association has also released COVID-19 fact sheetsin EnglishSpanish and Chinese.

Introducing “Eviction Chronicles” – Chapter 1

What does the reliance on eviction say about our society? Every day we hear stories from the tenant’s perspective of a housing market gone horribly wrong. The result is trauma and harm to thousands of Chicago’s working families. The stories are not black and white. They are about life, good and bad habits, eccentricities, prejudice, and privilege. The following articles are the real life stories of Chicago tenants. We invite you to read, think about and debate why there are some 25,000 evictions are filed annually in Chicago. Is there another way? 

Chapter 1 – “Ms. Cat”

MTO first heard from the senior who hotline staff affectionately refer to as “Ms. Cat” in 2018.  Ms. Cat had just received a 10-day notice for violating the lease provisions around pets. She had two cats of her own, and often fed the numerous alley cats outside her apartment.  Ms. Cat can be a bit cantankerous at times. She loves her cats, they’re her family.  She was so concerned about the alley cats well-being that one day she left a trail of cat food from the alley to her apartment. 

However, others in the apartment considered the cats – and her actions – a nuisance. The cat food was attracting rats. Yet, Ms. Cat either would not or could not (as she put it) abandon her cats.  They were her life. Unfortunately, her landlord didn’t attempt to talk to her about a solution, and instead moved to evict her. With her home and housing subsidy in jeopardy, Ms. Cat was able to secure an attorney. For several months the landlord, Ms. Cat and her attorney negotiated. In the end, our senior who is living on SSI had to leave her subsidized unit as a part of deal to avoid eviction.

Ms. Cat’s story does not end here. Ms. Cat’s next destination was a homeless shelter that did not allow pets.  Every night Ms. Cat would try to sneak the cats into the shelter. Management found out and then the notices came.  Management served her with an eviction notice. In one conversation with Ms. Cat, she said, “I would rather be homeless than to give up my cats.”  With that in mind, Ms. Cat decided to leave the shelter and move to an SRO (Single Room Occupancy Hotel).

She then moved into an SRO, which is often a last resort for many of Chicago’s most vulnerable residents. Within a couple of months of moving, Ms. Cat was again running into problems with the owner and her neighbors. Her lease allowed two cats, but she was still trying to sneak more into her unit. Neighbors complained of an odor.  Ms. Cat said, “it’s not the cats, it’s me.  I can not help that I am incontinent.  It’s a condition I can’t control. It’s like cancer.  You wouldn’t evict someone for having cancer.”  The owner served Ms. Cat with a 30-day notice to vacate. Rather than fight the eviction notice , Ms. Cat decided to move in with friend. The expectation was that this would be for a short time. She was desperately looking for housing she could afford. 

With an eviction filing on her record and limited income, her housing choices were extremely restricted. Several months have passed since Ms. Cat last called. We reached out to her, but her cell phone has been cutoff. We also await her next call.    We hope that Ms. Cat has found stable housing and is getting the help that she needs. 

But her situation begs an important question: why is eviction always the first resort?

Save-the Date for Shining Stars for Fair Housing Fundraiser 4.21.2020

We are excited to announce MTO’s Annual Spring Affair: Shining Stars for Fair Housing will be Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 6:30pm-8:30pm doors open at (6:00pm), at Masada Restaurant located at 2206 N. California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647. The event will celebrate trailblazers and budding stars working to advance fair housing in and beyond Chicago

Buy 1 Tix & Gift 1 Tix $130 (to tenant leaders, volunteers, and staff)

General Admission Tickets $75

MTO members $65

Do you believe housing is human right? Does your job, group, place of worship, or business seek to support community? If so, click here now and consider becoming a sponsor.

Aisha Truss-Miller, at 773-292-4980 ext. 236 or email

Become a Sponsor of Shining Stars for Fair Housing

We are excited to announce MTO’s Annual Spring Affair: Shining Stars for Fair Housing will be Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 6:30pm-8:30pm doors open at (6:00pm), at Masada Restaurant located at 2206 N. California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647.

Shining Stars supports trailblazers and emerging leaders working to advance fair housing in Chicago, by bringing together organizers, advocates, and contributors for a night of celebration.   We hope we can count on your support to make 2020’s Annual Spring Affair one of our best events yet!

2020 Sponsor Opportunities:

Click here to learn more and become a PLATINUM SPONSOR $5,000

Click here to learn more and become a GOLD SPONSOR $2,500

Click here to learn more and become a SILVER SPONSOR $1,000

Click here to learn more and become a BRONZE SPONSOR $500

For more information contact Aisha Truss-Miller, or call (773) 292-4980 ext. 236


Buy 1 Tix & Gift 1 Tix $130

General Admission $75 MTO Members $65.00

Tickets go on-sale Tues. 2/4/2020