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

IT Campaign

#FF0000 Raised $4,449 towards the $13,220 target.

MTO kicks-off IT Campaign


With a lot of help from our friends, the Metropolitan Tenants Organization today begins a targeted fundraising campaign to upgrade our computers and computer network.  The Pierce Family Foundation has kicked-off the campaign with an incredibly generous gift of $4,320 representing 33% of our total goal of $13,220 for a new server, installation & on-boarding, licensing, and the replacement of our oldest PC’s.

What do servers and pc’s have to do with our Mission? 

A lot actually!

  • MTO’s computerized Tenants Rights’ Hotline handles nearly 10,000 calls annually from Chicago renters needing answers on what the law says about issues they are having with their landlords.
  • MTO’s innovative and award-winning  Squared Away Chicago , which provides online support to renters 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week — is a web-based application.
  • MTO’s Website Homepage  is referenced by over 200,000 people annually.
  • MTO’s Healthy Homes Counselors conduct onsite inspections and use computer tablets to upload photo documentation of home-based health hazards directly to our program database.
  • And, then there are our everyday needs like bookkeeping, word-processing and email.


Help MTO today by making a targeted contribution to our Technology Project.


The Fight for Human Rights is not on Winter Vacation

image3While many of us were revving up for the holidays, other Chicago residents were standing up against violations of civil and human rights across our city. On December 21, 2016 human rights organizers held a vigil in Ravenswood in front of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s home.

Coffins, carnations, and candles symbolized the deaths of affordable housing, shelters, mental wellness clinics, health resources, school closings and the 700+ humans whose lives were ended by gun violence, including unjust fatal police shootings. Demonstrators expressed that community violence is not a stand alone issue, instead it is interconnected to the institutional violence and oppression of our city’s historically racist, classist, and patriarchal politics and policies.

In the South Loop, public funds are currently being used to construct an arena for a private institution- DePaul University’s new athletic arena. Public lands which were once public housing sites like the Ida B. Wells housing complex in Bronzeville is now home to Mariano’s, after CHA and the city broke the promise they made to taxpayers and residents to rebuild the public housing they tore down during the Plan for Transformation (deconstruction of Chicago’s housing projects).

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Housing is fundamental to the development of healthy people, healthy families, and healthy communities. Housing is a HUMAN RIGHT! We DEMAND a stop to the death of affordable housing and the violent policies sustaining race and class divides and deepening homelessness, police brutality and state sanctioned violence, community violence, inadequate education, and economic disenfranchisement. We must treat housing as a human right, not a commodity! It’s time to pass the #KeepingThePromise Ordinance and protect public housing, not destroy it! Join us in the fight.
Authored by: Aisha Truss-Miller and Angelica Ugarte

Mientras muchos de nosotros nos estamos preparando  para las festividades, muchos residentes de Chicago están alzándose en contra  de la  violación  de los derechos humanos y civiles  que se practican a lo largo y ancho de nuestra ciudad. Este 21 de diciembre del 2016, organizadores de derechos humanos, realizaron una vigilia en el barrio de Ravenswood en frente del hogar del Alcalde de la ciudad de Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel.

Ataúdes, claveles y velas fueron los símbolos para representar no solo la muerte de viviendas accesibles, sino también la muerte de las clínicas de salud mental, recursos de salud, a clausura de escuelas públicas, y las 700 vidas humanas  cuyas vidas fueron cortadas producto de la violencia con armas de fuego, incluyendo los disparos fatales  perpetrados por  la policía, que se sospecha eran injustificados. Los manifestantes  afirmaron  que la violencia en la comunidad no es un problema por si solo, sino que está vinculado con la violencia institucional y la opresión de parte de nuestra ciudad que  históricamente ha practicado políticas y legislaciones racistas, clasistas y patriarcales.

En el “South  Loop” fondos públicos están siendo  utilizados para subsidiar la construcción de un estadio nuevo para una institución privada, la Universidad de Depaul. Terrenos públicos que alguna vez  fueron  sitios utilizados para viviendas públicas como por ejemplo el Complejo Habitacional Ida B. Wells en Bronzeville ahora  está ubicado  un supermercado Mariano, debido a que CHA y la ciudad rompieron  la  promesa que  hicieran  a los contribuyentes y a los residentes a través del Plan de Transformación (la demolición de los proyectos de vivienda de Chicago ) de reconstruir cierta cantidad de viviendas públicas y  viviendas  accesibles.

El derecho a una vivienda es fundamental para el desarrollo no solo de personas saludables sino que también de hogares saludables y comunidades saludables. El derecho a una vivienda es un DERECHO HUMANO Nosotros Exigimos un cese a la muerte de viviendas accesibles y a legislaciones  violentas  que mantienen la división de raza y clase aumentando  el número de personas indigentes, la brutalidad policial, la violencia autorizada por el estado, la violencia en la comunidad, la educación deficiente y la privación a los derechos económicos

MTO Works in Woodlawn

woodlawnSheila was exhausted.  Her Woodlawn apartment was cold and unlivable — except to the rats, which constantly made their way in through holes in the kitchen walls.  In her bedroom, cold air flowed freely through gaps beneath vents and windows.  As summer turned to fall, heat ducts that were supposed to deliver warm air instead made Sheila’s bedroom feel like a refrigerator.  Sheila kept contacting her landlord, but to no avail.

Then on November 1st, Sheila discovered MTO’s Squared Away Chicago, a FREE app for Chicago renters, and began to document the problems.  She quickly learned her rights, and was eager to start exercising them.  She did just that — a step Squared Away makes easy for tenants.
To Sheila’s surprise, a contractor was out in a week, taking measurements and installing new windows. But she’d been promised fixes before, so she was skeptical, and as it turned out, for good reason.  Four days later, it was determined the incorrect window had been installed.  It was now mid-November, so Sheila went back to Squared Away and used it to “escalate” the situation with her landlord by sending a 14-day notice officially requesting the repairs be made.  If not, the notice stated, Sheila would exercise her right to withhold a portion of her monthly rent.  Just days before the 14-day deadline, work began in earnest.
On December 13th, she updated us on her situation through Squared Away.  We’re proud to report Sheila’s apartment has new pipes, air ducts and vents that keep the unit warm, new walls in her kitchen that keep the rodents out, and new windows that seal out the cold, and keep in the heat.  Sheila is one of nearly 10,000 renters throughout Chicago that MTO has helped this year.  

Please help us continue to help others in the year ahead.

Make the commitment!

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MTO works in Rogers Park

When Bryan turned on his faucet in early November, he held out his hand — and hope — that he’d finally have hot water in his apartment again.  He had always paid rent on time for his apartment in Rogers Park.  He had never caused any problems in the building, so he was frustrated when his repeated requests to the property manager yielded little success.  Multiple repair requests finally got someone to visit Bryan’s apartment and restore hot water, but it was just a temporary fix.

RPCold, frustrated, and feeling taken advantage of, Bryan started researching tenants rights in Chicago.  He found MTO’s website, where he discovered Squared Away Chicago, MTO’s FREE app for Chicago renters.  The app informs users of their rights and allows them to take action based on the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance.  As important, Squared Away creates a digital paper trail for tenants — they can access, update, and print the information and forms at any time, 24/7.  Bryan used Squared Away to document what was happening in his apartment and sent a 24-hour notice to his landlord demanding that hot water be restored to his apartment.

The landlord responded to his legal notice promptly, and within two days, hot water was flowing again in Bryan’s apartment.  Documentation is a key component to successful resolution of disputes.  Tenants like Bryan increase their chances of success when they document apartment problems, a step MTO has made much easier with Squared Away.

Bryan is one of nearly 10,000 renters throughout Chicago that MTO has helped this year.  Please help us continue to help others in the year ahead. Consider donating today or joining our next Hotline Volunteer Training on March 18th, 2017.