MTO Volunteer Helps Prevent Homelessness

photoBy: Riley HB Riley

It was a cold day, unseasonably so for September, and I was ill-prepared to be working outside for hours. Cold aside, I was pumped with energy to be participating in my first MTO action.

I had joined the Metropolitan Tenants Organization just three short weeks ago as a volunteer intern, mainly staffing the hotline and answering tenant calls about repairs, infestations, lockouts, and evictions. Four days ago I had received a call from a tenant asking about a termination notice she had received. This in itself is not unusual. The MTO hotline receives calls every day about evictions and termination notices.

This case was unusual in that the letter stated that the City of Chicago was evicting the tenants, and gave them only five days to move out. The notice also stated that if they were not out by Wednesday, the police would forcibly remove them.

The tenant told me she lived in an SRO, the Rosemoor Hotel. I have been learning more about Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings in my brief time with MTO. SROs are a vital source of housing for many low-income residents, including those on disability and social security, who might receive less than $1,000 per month to cover their basic living expenses.

SROs have been rapidly disappearing in Chicago as a result of gentrification. With changing neighborhood conditions in areas like Logan Square and the Near West Side, owners have been forcing out tenants with few other housing options in order to convert the buildings for greater profit. As a result, the availability of SROs has been dwindling in spite of a moratorium that is supposed to prevent the disappearance of this much-needed form of affordable housing.

This sounded like what might be happening to my tenant caller.

Sensing a red flag, I called in my supervisor, who called in her supervisor. They determined that not only was this a case we wanted to take on for organizing, but that this was an urgent issue requiring immediate, direct action.

That immediate, direct action came for me the next time I was in the office to staff the hotline. I was settling in, preparing to help with call backs that morning when one of our organizers approached me and asked if I wanted to come along to an organizing action at the Rosemoor.

We set out for the sidewalk in front of the Rosemoor, where we met up with some of the building’s tenants. MTO’s organizer had been working with them following my phone call, connecting them with each other so they could present a united front in fighting for their rights and protections.

I got to meet the tenant who had initially called me, and hear more about her experiences with the building. It was rewarding to see the progress that had already been made. Just a few short days ago, many of these tenants didn’t even know each other by name. Now, they were preparing to stand together in court to demand that the owner honor their contract.

The more I learned about the situation, the more appalled I grew. The owner, luxury car dealer Joe Perillo, had been remodeling the building while the tenants were still inhabiting it, creating an unsafe living environment. When the city ruled that the tenants needed to vacate the building for their own safety, Perillo turned around and gave everyone a five-day termination notice.

The notice implied that the city had given them only five days to leave, and no assistance in finding or paying for new accommodations. In fact, the city required Perillo to provide more time and to provide monetary assistance to the tenants, who faced an uphill battle in obtaining affordable housing and completing a complicated move on such short notice.

The next day in court, the tenants were able to stand together and make a strong case for their rights. The judge again ruled that Perillo could not simply kick them out with no assistance and little notice. This time, Perillo was not entrusted with managing the move-out since his dishonest handling of the situation before, blaming the city and avoiding any personal responsibility for the situation or legal obligation to pay. A receiver was appointed to oversee the move-out process and provide moving supplies. The judge ordered Perillo to pay the tenants $3,000 each for their move, and gave them an additional five days to pack!

While they will undoubtedly face more roadblocks along the way, I feel optimistic about the future of the Rosemoor tenants. It is always an honor to have someone share their story with you, something I experience every day on the hotline. To be able to be present for someone else, to listen, to counsel, is a gift. To be able to connect, organize, and galvanize a group of people to achieve such tangible outcomes for themselves and each other, is more than a gift; it’s empowerment in action.

 About the Author: Riley HB Riley is an Intern Hotline Counselor and Healthy Homes Organizer who will be spending ten months with MTO. She comes to us from the UIC Jane Addams School Of Social Work.

‘Logan Square For All’ Rally Takes Affordable Housing Message to the Streets

By Darryl Holliday

LOGAN SQUARE — The fight to keep the Milshire Hotel affordable took to the streets Tuesday night as nearly 100 people met at The Eagle monument before marching to the Logan Square SRO.

MilshireRally

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) joined the crowd to support a plan that would preserve the transient hotel for low-income men and women in the neighborhood. A wave of privatization in public and affordable housing “sets a bad trend for what we want to see in our neighborhood,” he said. 

Waguespack added that he’s sent a letter to Milshire owner Art Fischoff that “outlines what I’d like to see happen here.” He also noted plans to reach out to Logan Square landlord Mark Fishman, who the city recently listed as a potential contract buyer for the hotel.

If the contract is binding, Fishman’s company is already tied to any decision made at the hotel, though a pending SRO ordinance could alter plans on both sides.

Waguespack and organizers of the rally said they support an alternative buyer for the Milshire that has promised to keep the longstanding hotel open to low-income residents. Waguespack said his office is in talks with that nonprofit, Renaissance Social Services Inc., to put together a package that could compete with private developers in a bid for the Milshire.

A final proposal could include using Tax Increment Financing money to renovate the ailing hotel.

The Rev. Bruce Ray said he’s often asked why activists want to save the Milshire — a rundown building infested with bed bugs to the point where bite marks on tenants were presented as evidence in a recent court caseinvolving the tenants union.

“This is substandard housing,” he said, pointing to the Milshire. “We don’t want substandard housing, we want affordable housing.”

Another organizer of the rally spoke of Ernesto Garcia, a homeless man who was remembered with a vigil at the neighborhood square Sept. 11 after he was beaten to death in Logan Square Aug. 30.

“If Logan Square had affordable housing perhaps Ernesto would still be here,” she told the crowd.

This article was originally published by DNAInfo Chicago.

Judge Orders Slumlord Millionaire to Pay Rosemoor Tenants For Move

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Photo by Brian Sokolowski

A group of SRO tenants who probably couldn’t afford to buy a late-model Chevy if they pooled their money taught luxury auto dealer Joe Perillo a lesson Friday in Cook County Circuit Court.

In the process, they learned something about themselves. It was a beautiful thing to see.

The 15 or so tenants applauded spontaneously when Circuit Judge Edward Harmening ordered Perillo, owner of the Rosemoor Hotel, to pay each of them $3,000 to help them vacate the building on an emergency basis.

You’re not really supposed to applaud in court, and the judge looked a bit embarrassed, but he didn’t tell them to stop, sensitive perhaps to the fact he had contributed to their problem by ordering them out in the first place.

Harmening also appointed a receiver to help the tenants find somewhere to go and to assist them in moving, which will cost Perillo even more.

The reason I take satisfaction in that is for the past week Perillo’s management team at the single-room occupancy building at 1622 W. Jackson had tried to bluff and bulldoze the residents into leaving voluntarily.

They blamed the judge’s order to vacate by noon Thursday, glossing over the fact it was the result of a fire hazard created by Perillo trying to have it both ways — rehabbing the building with people still living there and paying rent.

Perillo’s guys didn’t back off until community organizers encouraged the tenants to stay put until compensated, and I wrote a column in Thursday’s paper about what was happening.

After that, the city began taking a more aggressive stance on the tenants’ behalf. Even then, however, somebody sent in a police officer overnight to try to scare them off, residents reported.

Then in court Friday, Perillo lawyer Arnold Landis tried to lowball the judge, offering to pay a maximum of only $500 to the tenants, instead of the $3,000 sought by the city, and arguing his team should be allowed to conduct the move without a receiver.

Harmening, having learned his own lesson after accepting Landis’ previous assurances management would work with the tenants, said he no longer had enough confidence to trust them with the responsibility.

So what was the lesson in this for Perillo, whose luxury auto group deals in Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Bugatti and Maserati?

“We’re dealing with people not cars.”

That was actually a line used in court by Judy Frydland, a lawyer for the city, after Landis used his negotiating ploy with the judge and ended up costing Perillo a lot more money than if he just treated the tenants fairly in the first place (though notably still not as much as it would cost to buy any one of his luxury automobiles.)

I knew the tenants were going to come out okay when I got to court and saw Frydland, a member of the A-team in the city corporation counsel’s office and someone with a history of fighting for people in these situations. Now, I can’t really explain why the city didn’t put up the same fight a week earlier, or why it took months for the city to realize ongoing rehab work at the hotel had created a fire danger or that the fire alarm was disconnected. But I don’t want to detract from a happy outcome.

And the tenants were, oh, so happy, as they celebrated in the hallway afterward, congratulating each other, and thanking everyone who had gone to bat for them.

It wasn’t just the money.

Forty-eight hours earlier, most of them were resigned to their fate, desperately looking for somewhere to move and unaware they might have any say in the matter. They didn’t even know each other by name.

But as I stood outside the Rosemoor on Wednesday with West Side activist Elce Redmond and organizers from the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, I could see the idea start to take hold that they could stick up for themselves.

And outside the courtroom Friday, I saw it come to full fruition — a sudden sense of empowerment.

The lesson for the tenants?

“This is what happens when you work together.”

That’s what John Bartlett, executive director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, told them, and they agreed.

“You know what. I’ll be able to sleep at night. I feel like I can walk away with my manhood,” said Roy Giddens, a Vietnam veteran and leader of the tenant group.

Many of the tenants, though, are still worried about finding a place to live by Wednesday, the new deadline set by the judge.

“I can’t live on the street. I’ve got oxygen at home,” fretted Karen Everett, 61, who would have been staying at the Rosemoor three years next month.

That’s why it’s so important to save what’s left of these SROs.

By Mark Brown. This article was originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times

Welcome to Chicago, Here Are Your Bed Bugs.

IMAG1401Tricia Jones recently relocated to the bed bug capital of the United States – Chicago, IL.  In her very first Chicago apartment, she was welcomed by a full blown infestation.  She didn’t know what to do so, as many of us would, she hit the internet and found MTO.  A call to the tenants rights hotline developed into a relationship lasting months which would yield – not only improved living conditions – but a stronger and more cooperative relationship with her landlord

How did she get from point A (a horrible bed bug problem and no relationship with landlord) to point B (a great living situation and great relationship with landlord)?

First, Tricia connected with a hotline volunteer who informed her of her rights under the Bed Bug Ordinance.  (This is always a good first move!)  She was told that it was important to establish a pattern of communication with her landlord.  She had the right, indeed the obligation, to inform her landlord of the bed bug problem in writing.  If the problem was not addressed within 10 days, she had the right to withhold a portion of her rent – she was advised to hold onto the money so that when issues were addressed she would have the rent she owed to pay.  She was also advised to send the letter certified mail to create a paper trail.  The 10 days came and went – no action was taken and Tricia started withholding a portion of her rent. (Things are looking bleak for Tricia, but read on…)

In the meantime, another issue surfaced and Tricia again contacted MTO.  The hotline counselor again advised her that she needed to inform her landlord of the problem in writing (certified mail) and give him 14 days to address the issue. Again, Tricia followed this advice. This time her landlord did respond: with an eviction notice. Tricia called MTO. We referred her to the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, but fortunately, Tricia ran into the owner of the building on the street.  The owner was the father of her landlord – and Tricia told him her story.  He called his son for a meeting and the son denied ever hearing from Tricia!  Fortunately, Tricia could produce certificates of having notified him on numerous occasions. (Remember that great advice the hotline counselor gave her?)  She also was able to pay all of the back rent she withheld (because she held onto it) when the owner agreed to immediately address her concerns.  Eviction charges were dropped and Tricia’s apartment was painted and repaired. 

The next time Tricia called MTO it was to thank the hotline counselor who walked her through these first difficult days in her apartment.  (That was Sara.  Sara is really great.)  She hopes to train to become a hotline counselor in the future so that she can provide this kind of support to other renters in need. 

There are few things more disturbing than moving to a new place and having your sanctuary – your new home – be a source of immediate chaos.  Tricia did everything right in this situation.  She documented all communication to her landlord, and she held onto the rent she withheld.  Most importantly – she called MTO.  We’re here to help!

July is membership month at Metropolitan Tenants Organization and we hope each and every one of you will join the movement for housing justice! There are many ways to get involved as members. Every bit of support means a better life for more Chicagoans.

 Volunteer your time, make a donation, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

“Squared Away Chicago” Renters App Now on-line!

CHICAGO — A first-in-the-nation web-based app to facilitate communications and improve relations between tenants and landlords, “Squared Away Chicago”, was launched today by the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO) at a reception for housing and technology leaders hosted by The Chicago Community Trust.

Click HERE to use our web app now!   

Squared Away Chicago is a free web-based app that any landlord or tenant can access through a URL link,  squaredawaychicago.com. It is designed to be used on any mobile phone browser and to take advantage of a mobile phone’s tools and convenience.

“Every day, tenants turn to MTO for support in resolving their housing problems and the Squared Away Chicago app not only will increase our capacity to serve, but by applying modern communication tools it promises to revolutionize the way landlords and tenants do business,” said John Bartlett, executive director, Metropolitan Tenants Organization. “Whether you are a student renting for the first time or life-long renter, the app will provide tools tenants and landlords need to succeed and avoid common pitfalls which lead to dissatisfaction and possible evictions.”

The app provides access – at the touch of a finger – to resources, knowledge about rights and the ability to document and share issues between tenants and landlords in real-time, leading to faster issue resolution, increased accountability and fewer misunderstandings.

“Giving renters a way to take pictures and send and store communications gives us a leg up in documenting and resolving issues before they turn into bigger problems,” said Ashley Dearborn, a local Chicago tenant. “The app also helps renters like me understand the laws that our landlords must follow so we can know what our rights are.”

Likewise, landlords have their own set of challenges in providing information and updates to tenants and maintaining constructive communications. “The Squared Away Chicago app is a great tool for tenants, owners and management companies and hopefully it can help to improve the communication between all the parties,” saidEiran Feldman, principal with First InSite Realty, an owner and management company in Chicago. The goal of the app is to promote  good rental practices that lead to more stable tenancies and reduce turnover.

APP FEATURES FACILITATE COMMUNICATION & BUILD RELATIONS

The Squared Away Chicago app is designed to support both tenants and landlords by enabling them to improve the landlord-tenant relationship through increased communication and accountability. The creation of the app was supported by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationThe Chicago Community Trust, and theMarguerite Casey Foundation. 

“The Squared Away Chicago app has the potential for nationwide adoption, serving as a significant resource to build a community of informed and engaged tenants and landlords,” said Julia M. Stasch, Vice President of U.S. Programs at the MacArthur Foundation. “The best practices and documentation capacity of the Squared Away app are universal features that can serve as a platform to help build a more efficient and better functioning rental housing market for all households.”

With the Squared Away Chicago mobile app, tenants and landlords will have these four features at their fingertips:

  • Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO): Accessing the law provides users with knowledge about the rights of tenants and landlords.
  • Photo Sharing: Tenants can take/upload photos of issues, creating a visual record that is instantly accessible to the landlord.
  • Letter Templates: Specific details of housing-related issues can be inserted in template documents and then accurately and quickly shared with landlords.
  • Report a Problem: Provides the ability to track communications about issues and organize and save the string of communications for reference and documentation.

“As a resource for members of the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s family-led Equal Voice Campaign, the Squared Away app will serve to strengthen the voice of low-income families, supporting informed and engaged tenants and landlords that will ultimately serve to build awareness of renters’ housing rights and options,” said Edgar Villanueva, program officer, Marguerite Casey Foundation.

APP DESIGN ADDRESSES NEEDS OF TENANTS & LANDLORDS

Through MTO’s 28 years of experience serving renters in Chicago, the organization has found that poor communication and a lack of awareness of rental laws often leads to unresolved housing issues, dissatisfaction, unnecessary evictions and/or loss of rental income, as well as costs associated with turnover and a devaluing of property.

When Greater Good Studio, a Chicago-based firm using design methods to solve social problems, was enlisted to identify a set of app features that would best support tenants and landlords through the rental life cycle, they looked at what makes a successful tenancy. Their review found that a successful tenant-landlord relationship occurred when there was a communicative relationship, problems and issues were resolved, and the tenant and landlord maintained long-term mindsets.

To promote successful tenancies, Greater Good Studio identified that the app needed to address the following issues:

  • Assist tenants in following best practices and acting according to their rights.
  • Encourage both parties to keep a lasting, shared record of housing-related issues.
  • Support landlords and tenants in building relationships and maintaining clear, responsive communication.
  • Identify opportunities for working together across the rental journey, from move-in to repairs to seasonal issues to deposit return.

“Our human-centered design research informed the development of the most critical features, a process for registering issues and a shared timeline for both parties to view progress toward issue resolution. These features solve the often emotional process of tenant-landlord communications, while being delivered through a simple, intuitive user interface,” said Sara Cantor Aye, founder, Greater Good Studio.

The development of the app was completed by Chicago firms Philamonjaro Studios and DevMynd, taking into account the need for a user-friendly design and functionality that was both easy and quick to navigate and facilitated communications about housing-related issues.

“The Squared Away app uses responsive Web design which means there is no downloading or updating required, making it easy for tenants and landlords to access and start the process in the moment of need,” said Dan O’Neil, executive director, Smart Chicago Collaborative. “This user-friendly app is focused on issue resolution and asks for the minimum amount of information necessary to kick off communications, offering a great resource for people to get squared with their abode in Chicago.”

APP OFFERS BROADER ACCESS TO RESOURCES FOR TENANTS & LANDLORDS

According to a May 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, cell phone and wireless laptop internet use have each grown more prevalent, with six in ten American adults going online wirelessly using either a mobile phone or a laptop with a wireless internet connection. Further, 40% of adults use the internet, email or instant messaging on a mobile phone.

“Internet and social media usage has grown exponentially as mobile devices have become more accessible. The Squared Away Chicago app is a cutting-edge example of capitalizing on this channel to build a more effective relationship between landlords and low-income tenants through the virtual world,” said Juanita Irizarry, senior program officer, Human Services & Community Development, The Chicago Community Trust.

While thousands of renters currently use MTO’s website, proving the need for web-based rental housing information, the Pew study demonstrates the additional need for an app or internet access compatible with mobile devices.

“The Squared Away Chicagoapp is a true innovation and national example that will benefit renters and landlords throughout the region and improve the quality and livability of housing in the Chicago area,” said Lawrence Grisham, managing deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development.

Click HERE to watch a video about Squared Away Chicago and make sure to visit www.squaredawaychicago.com!

 

 

County Votes to End Discrimination

On May 8, 2013 the Cook County Board of Commissioners, in a landmark vote to end discriminatory housing practices throughout Suburban Cook County, voted to pass the Source of Income Amendment to the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance.  The amendment passed with 9 votes in favor and 6 against.

Housing Choice Voucher holders and advocates across suburban Cook County are celebrating this great victory.  “This historic vote by the Cook County Board of Commissioners brings us one step closer to the America we all want.  An America that is inclusive, where real opportunity is given to everyone, including the right to live

wherever they choose to live.” said John Bartlett, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization.  Brendan Saunders Director of Advocacy and Community Organizing at Open Communities said: “This victory puts the choice back in Housing Choice Vouchers.”

This amendment, introduced by Commissioner Jesus Garcia, and cosponsored by Commissioner Larry Suffredin and Commissioner Robert Steele, effectively prohibits landlords in suburban Cook County from discriminating against renters with Housing Choice Vouchers by refusing to consider them as tenants.  Renters seeking to live in suburban Cook County have been struggling for the passage of this type of protection for years, which renters in the Chicago area already enjoy through the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.

Ms. Rose Green awarded Ralph Scott Award for Tenant Leadership

It is most fitting that the 2nd Annual Ralph Scott Award for Tenant Leadership will go to Rose Green, president of Rogers Park-based New Directions for Change, an organization which works on issues of low-income tenants, many of whom are voucher holders.

Ralph dedicated his life to working with and empowering low-income renters to assert their right to decent, safe and affordable housing.  For many of his years in Chicago, Ralph was a key force in the Rogers Park Tenants Committee which later became the Rogers Park Community Action Network (RPCAN).  Ms. Green epitomizes the work of Ralph.  Like Ralph Scott, Ms. Green as a Section 8 voucher holder became active with RPCAN in the late 1990s.

What drew Rose to RPCAN and organizing was her personal experience of having to face down discrimination on her own.  When Rose first received her voucher she was excited that it would help her with her housing costs.  As she searched for an apartment, she just could not find one.  There were plenty out there but the landlords would always say they didn’t have one as soon as they learned she had a voucher.  Then according to Rose, “I went to a meeting at RPCAN and found out I was being discriminated against and I’ve been involved ever since.”   Rose organized the Rogers Park Section 8 Tenants Council.

Despite health concerns, Rose has worked tirelessly for low-income tenants in general and subsidized tenants in particular.  She developed effective working relationships with the Chicago Housing Authority which helped her advocate for both individual voucher holders and issues affecting voucher holders as a whole.  For over six years, Rose has also been an ardent advocate for protecting suburban Cook County voucher holders from discrimination based on source-of-income.

Currently, she continues this work with New Directions for Change which has picked up the work where the Section 8 Tenants Council left off.  For several years now, New Directions has partnered with MTO in presenting tenant meetings and workshops in the Rogers Park neighborhood, for which Rose and her organization have also provided logistical support.  Rose is committed to ending discrimination.  She said, “I don’t think it is right (discrimination).  I won’t give up.  I don’t want other people to go through what I went through.”

To purchase tickets or to sponsor a housing choice voucher holder’s attendance, please click here.

Report challenges tie between housing vouchers, crime: Chicago Tribune

 

Renters’ use of housing choice vouchers, more commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, long has worried communities that the arrival of voucher-holding tenants in a neighborhood will lead to crime and, eventually, lower property values.

That’s not true, says a new policy brief by researchers who studied crime patterns and voucher use in Chicago and nine other large cities over a number of years.

Read more here.

Chicago Tribune – March 29, 2013

Clergy Support Source of Income Campaign

MTO, Access Living and Progress Center Illinois held a Prayer Breakfast regarding the Source of Income amendment on January 15,  2013 at Pearl’s Place in Chicago.  Over forty pastors and community leaders from across the city and suburbs were in attendance to hear from Housing Choice Voucher holders about experiences with discrimination based on their income.

Currently, the City of Chicago already prohibits landlords from discriminating against voucher holders.  In the suburbs of Cook County, landlords can and do deny people housing solely because they have a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher.  The Source of Income amendment is a protection that would require landlords to consider renting to Housing Choice Voucher holders.  It would not force a landlord to participate in the program if the tenant does not meet typical requirements (i.e. poor credit rating, bad landlord reference).  The amendment would give people with vouchers the equal opportunity to housing.

On Thursday January 24, 2013 from 2-4 pm at Progress Center Blue Island, MTO, Access Living and Progress Center IL invite you to attend a Town Hall meeting discussing housing discrimination.  Come out and share your experiences with us, and help end housing discrimination and segregation.  If you believe in equal opportunity, join us and show your support.  For more information/transportation call us at 773-292-4980 ext. 224.

 

Renters Protest Oak Park’s Largest Landlord

On Thursday, December 13, 2012, more than 40 tenants and advocates from across Cook County picketed Oak Park Apartments’ headquarters on Chicago Avenue to protest the company’s refusal to accept Housing Choice Vouchers.  While it may be legal in Cook County suburbs to refuse to rent to Housing Choice Voucher holders, it is not morally right.

According to one Housing Choice Voucher holder that lives in Oak Park, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, “I have been denied occupancy in countless properties including Oak Park Apartments, just because I have a voucher.  This is just not fair.  I pay my rent yet I cannot live in certain buildings!”

Adam Ballard of Access Living and a voucher holder stated, “Many people with disabilities rely on vouchers for their housing.  We want Oak Park Apartments and Cook County to end this legalized discrimination.   All we are asking is to be treated like anyone else.”

Currently, the City of Chicago forbids landlords to discriminate against voucher holders.  There is no such prohibition in Cook County suburbs.  Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, is trying to change that and has introduced legislation that would amend the County’s Human Rights Ordinance to make it illegal to discriminate against Housing Choice Voucher holders.

After the picket, tenants went to Cook County Commissioner Earlene Collins’ office.  The group wanted to know why Commissioner Collins had not signed on as a supporter of the amendment.  While the Commissioner was away at the time, the group was promised a meeting with the Commissioner.

According to Shirley Johnson, Organizing Director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, “Section 8, Housing Choice Voucher Holders are stereotyped and therefore often forced to live in high crime, low opportunity communities.  The recent presidential election proved that it is a “new America” where diversity rules. A rental policy that refuses to rent to voucher holders is blatant discrimination and should be outlawed, especially in today’s modern society.”

Oak Park Apartments claims to offer “the largest selection of well-maintained apartments perfect for those who want to experience Oak Park’s architectural character, its excellent school system and vibrant and diverse village feel.”  However, they intentionally exclude Housing Choice Voucher holders from these opportunities.

Access Living, Progress Center and the Metropolitan Tenants Organization organized the protest.  The groups promised to return.  According to Adam Ballard of Access Living, “The fight for our rights has just begun.”