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 aisha@tenants-rights.org

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, aisha@tenants-rights.org or call (773) 292-4980 ext. 236

TICKET SALES:

Buy 1 Tix & Gift 1 Tix $130

General Admission $75 MTO Members $65.00

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

Thanks for Making a Difference with MTO

MTO is tremendously grateful for members and donors like you.With your support over the holiday season we raised over $6,000 for our Tenant Stabilization Programs.

It’s not too late to make your investment towards housing justice with MTO

Your gift helps Chicago & Cook County renters to know and act on their rights through MTO’s core programs and services: 

1.  Building Organizing  * Tenant Association Formation & Growth * MTO’s HUD Tenant Committee  * Leadership Development
2. Advocacy Campaigns * Development for All * Homes for All * Chicago Healthy Homes Inspection Program * (CHHIP)Lift the Ban on Rent Control * Just Cause to Evict 3. Tenant Stabilization Programs * Healthy Homes * Eviction Prevention * Tenants’ Rights Hotline Services

Please explore MTO’s website for campaign updates, events, and opportunities to volunteer and/or donate.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Keep Renters Housed by Supporting MTO

MTO wishes you cheer and a Happy New Year, as 2019 winds down. We appreciate the support of our donors, volunteers, and members. Your investment makes a difference. Thank you!


In 2019, MTO helped preserve 1,206 affordable housing units, prevented over 200 families from eviction, and provided assistance to over 15,000 low-income renting households. Our services, organizing, and advocacy are rooted in the rights of renters and a vision that everyone deserves access to safe and healthy affordable housing.  Making change requires research, learning and relationship building. It also requires time and money. For example, a $1,000 donation to MTO’s Eviction Prevention Program will help 5 families from becoming homeless or displaced. A gift of $250 allows us to inspect the home of a family living in health hazardous conditions. $25 covers the cost of a Tenants’ Rights Hotline call; 9,000 calls were completed this year. 


Donations of any size brings MTO a step closer to best serving our most vulnerable renters. Consider making a gift today to keep the movement for housing justice moving. Click here to donate now. Your donation will help MTO support housing stability for thousands of low-income renters in Chicago and Cook County.


Please make a 2019 tax-deductible, year-end contribution.  

Thank You to MTO supporters and volunteers on #Giving Tuesday

Thanks to everyone who shared their time, energy, and dollars with MTO for #Giving Tuesday. Your gift is an investment in the positive change our communities want and deserve.

A Generous Anonymous Donor will match total gifts for MTO from TODAY until MONDAY!

 We are half-way to our #GT goal of $5,000. No gift is too small for housing justice, as we press on in our efforts to secure safe housing for the thousands of renters assisted by MTO. All proceeds support MTO’s Tenant Stabilization Programs, which work to prevent homelessness by securing the tenancy of low-income renters. You can make a world of difference through our tenant stabilization. 

Click here to donate

Last year, with the support of donors and volunteers, MTO served over 15,000 low-income households through direct service, community organizing, and policy change. And that work continued in 2019.

Early this year MTO worked with Demetrius Stewart, whom like many tenants had insufficient heat during a harsh Chicago winter. Demetrius reached out to MTO to better understand his rights so he could take action to secure a habitable unit. And it paid off. With your support, we can help more renters like Demetrius stay warm this winter.


Click HERE for Demetrius’ story on CBS News

Eviction Prevention Program keeps Chicago senior housed

Out of Chicago’s 77 community areas, Auburn Gresham (highlighted in the map above) sees the 4th highest rate of evictions. (source: eviction.lcbh.org)

Ms. Daniels had lived in a modest Auburn Gresham apartment building for over two years. And things had been going relatively smoothly for the retired senior. That all changed one day when Ms. Daniels came home from the Doctor’s office to find frost on the inside of her windows. Her heat was not working. She talked to her neighbors, who reported they too had no heat. She called her landlord, who never even showed up. Ms. Daniels didn’t want to cause problems, but she really needed her heat turned on. She is diabetic and was undergoing cancer treatment at the time, so the lack of heat was complicating her health. 

Ms. Daniels called 311 to report her lack of heat, among other problems, like a leaking roof and holes in the exterior walls. Instead of sending someone to fix the problems, her landlord showed up and told her and her neighbors that they had to pay more rent or leave. They asked why, and the landlord told them if they want repairs they would have to pay up. This type of retaliation is harmful and immoral, but all too common for tenants who call MTO’s Tenants Rights Hotline. And that’s just what Ms. Daniels did when her landlord started refusing to accept her rent checks.

After calling and speaking with a Hotline Counselor, Ms. Daniels was connected with MTO’s Eviction Prevention Specialist (EPS). Because Ms. Daniels’ landlord had already filed an eviction against her, the EPS knew time was of the essence, and knew that while Ms. Davis had a “good case”, it could be very difficult for her to win it on her own. She would need an attorney. With this in mind, the EPS fast-tracked Ms. Daniels case to the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (LCBH). MTO and LCBH have formed a partnership to combat the eviction crisis, deploying a new joint intake form and streamlining the referral process. LCBH swiftly accepted Ms. Daniels case, and represented Ms. Davis in court, not only winning the case, but also sealing the public record. 

Today, Ms. Daniels is safe and recovering in a warm apartment – without the stain of eviction on her record – thanks to fast action and an Eviction Prevention partnership that works to address evictions proactively at their earliest point. Evictions are a scourge to our communities, deepening poverty and segregation, and must be addressed head on if we want to bring justice to Chicago’s working class communities and begin to solve the housing crisis that affects so many of Chicago’s families. 

If you or anyone you know is facing the threat of eviction, please call MTO at 773-292-4988.

Healthy and affordable housing for ALL!

Water damage in the restroom ceiling

Tenants living in buildings owned by the Better Housing Foundation continue to experience uncertainty even as the City of Chicago building court system attempts to make rulings intended to improve their housing via appointment of limited receivers. Despite these decisions, sometimes tenant concerns can get lost in the shuffle. One such family – the Finkle’s – reached out to Amy de la Fuente, one of MTO’s court advocates, about mold, mushrooms and water damage in their unit. Mrs. Finkle hear about MTO when her neighbor attended building court the previous month After speaking with Amy, Mrs. Finkle asked her son to email photos of the unit conditions to Amy, who in turn shared the photos with the program officer from CIC in charge of the building. Mrs. Finkle, who is wheelchair bound, also encouraged her son to attend court on her behalf to speak about the conditions.

Young Mr. Finkle, who suffers from asthma, attended court. He met with Amy and prepared his talking points. When the judge called his building, he and several neighbors from the building stepped forward to ask questions and express their concerns. With Amy by his side, Mr. Finkle advocated to safe, decent and healthy housing for himself and his mother. The judge, city attorney and program officer all listened and asked questions. The judge granted the temporary receiver authorization to make repairs related to water damage and to relocate tenants as necessary. As he left the courtroom, Mr. Finkle turned to Amy, shook her hand and said, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Active leaks and water damage from the ceiling to the wall.

MTO and their partner agency, the Community Investment Corporation, have worked diligently for the past nine months to help preserve affordable housing and keeps tenants stably housed in over 75 Better Housing Foundation buildings. Their work, coupled with strong tenant advocacy, like that of the Finkle family, has led to positive outcomes for residents living in these buildings.

After Protest, Housing Commissioner Commits New Task Force to work with ‘Our Home, Chicago’ legislation

Demonstrators outside of “Eight Eleven Uptown” on Thursday afternoon.

MTO and its allies in the Our Homes Chicago coalition, protested Thursday outside of 811 W Montrose, the site of a luxury development in Uptown that received $16 million in public TIF money despite opting out of the city’s affordable housing requirements. According to the Coalition, Alderman Cappleman received $36,000 in campaign donations from the developer, JDL, in exchange for arranging the TIF handout. It’s this pay-to-play culture of corruption that is driving the housing crisis in Chicago, causing massive increases in rent and property taxes, gentrification, and displacement. The Our Homes Chicago ordinances are a package of transformative affordable housing laws that would create inclusive, equitable development and the integration of affordable housing into all 50 wards.

City Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara committed Thursday that the City’s new Task Force to reform the Affordable Requirements Ordinance will consider the CHI Coalition’s Our Homes, Chicago Legislation.  25 Aldermen have urged the Mayor’s Task Force to take the Development for All Ordinance as the Task Force’s official starting point for reforming the ARO. We look forward to participating.

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