“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.)


 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

Make a Difference this Giving Tuesday!

This Giving Tuesday, Give to the expecting mother, and her 3 young children, whose only wish is to secure decent housing. No child should have to live with a falling ceiling that impacts their safety and their quality of air. This family has lived in their Englewood apartment for 5 years with little to no repairs by the owner. MTO is supporting the resilient mom who is learning and advocating her rights to safe and decent housing.  Your donation to MTO helps keep this family and others from being homeless this holiday season. Stable housing is the gift that keeps giving. Help make a difference by donating HERE today. 


HELP Educate. HELP Organize. HELP Empower.                                      

The mission of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization is to educate, organize and empower tenants to have a voice in the decisions that affect the affordability and availability of safe, decent and accessible housing.

Youth Stand Up for Parkway Gardens

One of the most effective ways to get involved in improving your community is to join or form your local Tenant Association. Young people at Parkway Gardens have done just that; they formed a Youth Tenant Council. Parkway Gardens’ teens are organizing to ensure they have a voice in the decisions affecting them and their community. The teens formed the council to focus on issues impacting young people at Parkway Gardens.


The youth are concerned about resources available to employ teenagers, crime in their neighborhood, and creating solutions to issues that plague their community. In the short time the Youth Tenant Council has been meeting, they’ve made their presence known. They met with the Building Manager to articulate their vision for Parkway Gardens. Management agreed with the need for resources to employ youth in the community, and committed to start providing youth with stipends to write stories, take pictures, and document the progress of work in the community gardens.  The group also met with CAPS to create a working relationship between police and community, and to express their concerns about the lack of safety along King Drive, which is where most of the violence takes place, as described by community. The Youth Council created a petition and are now gathering signatures demanding increase to resources for community safety through the Chicago Police Department.
Empowering youth to identify and respond to community needs helps us all become more empathetic and reflective community and instills a sense of hope in our present and future. As youth and community organize together, young people (and not so-young people) realize their the power to influence decisions impacting their communities the most. Consistently, research suggests youth who are engaged in their communities are less likely to fall into the traps of school-to-prison pipeline. As young people work for change and the future they envision for Parkway Gardens they are gaining and sharing skills to be the leaders of today and tomorrow

MTO receives 2017 HMRPG Social Justice Award

Like healthcare, housing is a human right”, said John Bartlett, MTO’s Executive Director, Friday night while receiving the 2017 Health and Medicine Policy Research Group Award at the #hmprggala. The Health and Medicine Policy Research Group (Health & Medicine) held the Awards Gala to honor the accomplishments of activists and professionals making important strides towards health equity and social justice. MTO was recognized for its work protecting tenants health and promoting social justice in housing.  

“Like Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, MTO believes that it is essential to work at the intersection of different social needs”, said John Bartlett, MTO’s Executive Director. It is when we work at these intersections that we begin to understand the barriers to health and well-being. For instance, if a family does not have a decent, stable home, children will not do as well in school. And without a good education, it is harder to get a good job. And without a job it is next to impossible to obtain a stable decent home, and on and on. It is for this reason that we maintain that ike healthcare, housing is a human right”.

To see a list of this years Award Winners, click here



MTO Sponsors Water at Risk: A Tribal Leaders’ Perspective

The Metropolitan Tenants Organization is co-sponsoring “Water at Risk”, a program highlighting the Standing Rock Sioux and Menominee Tribes’ campaigns to protect their tribes’ water resources. Several people have asked why would MTO, a housing organization, sponsor an event like this.  There are four basic reasons for our support.

First, as a social justice organization, MTO believes that it is essential to stand in solidarity with other groups and peoples demanding their rights. The Standing Rock Sioux and Menominee Tribes are in a major political battle to defend their sovereignty and water rights. Their demands are just.  When we stand in support of community struggles, we learn from and create bonds between groups and peoples and build power through unity.

Second, the underlying values of our struggles are similar in that each calls into question who gets to determine what gets built on tribal or community land. In one case, we have corporate interests taking the Standing Rock Sioux’s land to build a pipeline. In Chicago and other cities, developers take over land to build apartments, condos, etc.  and displace the residents.  Whether it is the tribes demanding control over their land or communities demanding a voice in development, we are working for self-determination.

Third, both are a struggle for human rights. In the same way that we need water to survive, people need housing to survive. Fighting for human rights has at its core the demand for justice and inclusion. MTO’s mission is one of justice and inclusion.

Finally, the struggle at Standing Rock is about people taking action. The encampment at Standing Rock is an inspiration for all and suggests a path forward. Thousands of people came to support the Standing Rock Sioux and to nonviolently confront through prayer and action the illegitimate construction of an oil pipeline which endangers the major source water for the tribe. 

MTO hopes to see you at these important events. Two programs are scheduled for August 17. The first at Lincoln Hall at Northwestern University starting at 8 am. The second is at the American Indian Center, 3401 W. Ainsley, starting a 7 pm. Featured Speakers are: Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault and Menominee Tribal Chairman Gary Besaw.  

In Solidarity,

The Metropolitan Tenants Organization



Shondra’s Story is an all too familiar tale for renters

Signs outside the rally Shondra passed in Pilsen

Just recently, Shondra was walking from work when she passed a rally a couple blocks from her home in Pilsen. She stopped and listened to a neighbor tell how his landlord had just given everyone in the building an eviction notice. Shondra ran home to retrieve a notice she received from her landlord just two days earlier stating that she and her neighbors had 30 days to move out. She returned to the rally with the notice and spoke with MTO Organizer Miguel Jimenez, asking if there was anything she and her neighbors could do. Shondra and other renters in her building quickly worked together to form a tenants association. With the help of MTO and its allies, the tenants association was able to secure time and money to move. Although they had to move out, none of the tenants in Shondra’s building became homeless. Instead, they now have the time and resources to find stable housing in the neighborhood they’ve called home for so long.

Join the MTO Sustainers Giving Program

Please support MTO and help stop Chicago from being reshaped into a city of haves and have nots. We need your financial support to continue our efforts of stabilizing renters access to housing. Too many families are being displaced from their homes and pushed out of the city entirely. Making sure tenants have stable housing and power in the decisions affecting their homes is key to our campaign for Housing Justice. Chicagoans are constantly battling the forces of gentrification and dislocation. Safe, decent, and affordable housing is not a privilege – it is a HUMAN right. Join us and pledge to sustain and expand housing justice in Chicago with a monthly, quarterly, or annual contribution. No investment is too small.


Contributors who make a recurring pledge by June 30th will be honored as 

Sustainers Giving Program Co-Founders!

Strike! MTO’s Annual Bowl-A-Thon

Saturday, August 19th, 2017, 3PM-6PM
Diversey River Bowl, 2211 Diversey, Chicago IL

Bowling Pic

Each year MTO sponsors a bowling tournament to raise funds to support our mission to educate, organize and empower tenants to have a voice in the decisions that affect the affordability and availability of safe, decent and accessible housing. There are 3 ways to get involved!

Sign-up now to support your favorite Team


Compete by forming your own team of four


Come party with us! $25 at the door, $20 with advanced RSVP


To RSVP or form your own team, call Aisha at 773-292-4980, ext 236.




***Pizza and Beer for participating Teams***
***Awards given in multiple Team and Individual categories***

Past Awards have been donated by:
Chicago Wolves; Music Box Theatre,  Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria; Zanie’s Comedy Nite Club; White Sox; Glessner House Museum; Jewel-Osco; Brookfield Zoo; and more!

Pilsen Tenants Fight Back Against Mass Eviction

Signs outside 1722 W 21st.

When the tenants at 1722 W 21st Street got 30-day notices saying they must move out of their apartments, they were outraged. Monroe management had recently evicted their neighbors too. The building next door was gutted and rehabbed, with new rents costing $1,500 a month. The tenants at 1722 W. 21st were facing an all too common problem – mass eviction and displacement – an epidemic in Pilsen. Eight families were being asked to leave their homes to make way for someone who could pay more. Eight families facing homelessness so that their landlord can make an extra buck.

To make matters worse, Monroe Management, the tenants said, was intimidating them by threatening to shut off their water and gas. Feeling ignored, tenants decided they would stick together and seek resources to fight back. They engaged community organizers, learned their tenant rights, and immediately wrote a 14-day letter asking for much-needed building repairs (the previous owner had neglected the building). They also sought legal assistance from the Lawyer Committee for Better Housing (who has since accepted their case). Monroe has responded by making repairs in the building, but they still want the tenants out.

On Wednesday, tenants held a press-conference to decry Monroe’s actions and call for an end to the mass gentrification of Pilsen. Shelonda Montgomery (see video below) spoke about how common it has become for big management companies to “buy up” the community, rehab apartments and price out long-term community residents.

Tenants also spoke about the need for rent control and a proactive inspection system in Chicago. One tenant spoke of the need to be engaged in the struggle – together – to fight against housing discrimination. The tenants at 1722 W 21st Street will soon have their day in court, together, thanks to the community members and allies that continue to support our work.

Check out the Twitter story below!

TAKE ACTION: Show your support for two important housing initiatives!

MTO and its allies are working on two important rental housing initiatives: Just Cause for Eviction and the Chicago Healthy Homes Inspection Program (CHHIP)These are two pieces of a broader housing justice platform of affordability, accessibility, habitability and stability. As rents continue to raise it’s important that we fight for affordable housing. Help us show Chicago decision-makers the community’s support. Discuss the proposal with your organization & click the links below!

Support Proactive Rental Inspections

 We all know that housing is a basic human need and, indeed, we believe it should be considered a basic human right. But what does this right mean if families are insecure in the place they call home? Unsafe and unsanitary conditions – lead, mold, roaches, and inadequate heat – continue to be the #1 problem for tenants. If adopted, the Chicago Healthy Homes Inspection Program (CHHIP) would be a proactive rental inspection program that would, over time, improve the quality of housing stock, promote development without displacement, and include a special focus on dealing with lead contamination of young children. 



Support “Just Cause” for Evictions

Illinois law continues to allow landlords to evict families without fault on the part of the renter. This typically occurs by giving renters a 30-day notice terminating their tenancy, and then suing them for eviction. Eviction filings harm renter’s credit reports, making it difficult to secure new housing. Many of the 30,000 evictions each year in Chicago are filed by banks who foreclose on landlords, or by profiteers engaging in mass evictions. Under Just Cause, landlords would need a legitimate reason to evict such as non-payment of rent, destruction of property, or removing the unit from the rental market. Just Cause Evictions allow renters to stay in their homes longer and invest in their community. Just Cause protects working families & vulnerable renters such as seniors, the disabled, and families with school-aged children. It’s time to promote neighborhood & family stability!



The question is, how do we become better allies?

Today is International Women’s Day. On this day, women all across the world receive praises that go unsaid the rest of the year. It’s also a day for women like myself to reflect on what it means to be a woman, and how to stand better in solidarity with other women. Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the women that I’ve met throughout the years as a Healthy Homes Organizer and the struggles they’ve had to face. The story of Ms. May sticks out in my mind.

I first visited Ms. May this past January, to take a look at the peeling paint in her home and talk about how to prevent lead poisoning. When I arrived at the home, it immediately became clear that the situation was much worse than I had initially thought. There was ice on the staircase and a broken faucet, which had gone unchecked for nearly a week. That resulted in a giant ice rink near the house – a clear and present danger to Ms May. Inside the house, there was mold on the kitchen and bathroom walls and holes in the foundation. There were rat droppings from an infestation that had been inappropriately handled by her landlord, with serious consequences.

Last October she asked her landlord to deal with the rat problem. The landlord, instead of hiring an exterminator, had brought an unqualified person who ended up leaving a bag of rat poison pellets on top of the dining table.  Her three-year-old daughter confused the brightly colored pellets for cereal and ended up ingesting some. Fortunately, the quick actions by Ms May resulted in a full recovery for her little girl. I bring this particular story up, because my initial reaction was to judge. How could someone leave rat poison on the table? How could she not realize that a young child might be attracted to the brightly colored pellets?

It took me a few minutes before I checked myself and realized that situations like this were never that simple, and it usually was not the fault of one person. Ms May had done the best she could given her circumstances. It was her landlord who should have made the repairs, promptly and efficiently. But that did not happen. The exploitation of low-income tenants, in particular mothers and caretakers is something far too common in the housing market. Women in these situations more often than not have to take on the burden of child-rearing and making ends meet. Adding substandard housing further increases that burden, and the health consequences from inadequate housing are severe. We can’t make every home safe, but we can support the people living there.

So the question is, how do we become better allies? How do we, as fellow women, lessen the burden of so many other Chicago women like Ms May? You can begin to stand in solidarity by calling your alderman and supporting the Chicago Healthy Homes Inspection Program that is designed to enforce building code standards and protect renters from health hazards. A move from the current building inspection system will help us prevent another story like Ms May’s and helps us in the effort to create safe housing for all. Healthy and thriving lives start at home, which is why every family should have safe, decent and accessible housing!

This story was written by Angelica Ugarte, Healthy Homes Program Organizer