Tenants Avoid Homelessness On Thanksgiving

Last updated: December 4, 2014 – 2:14 PM
Janet Tidwell at home with her son.

The Metropolitan Tenants Organization is the “go to” organization for thousands of Chicago renters who face serious housing problems.  Every year MTO answers their call and works with individuals and tenant associations to assert their right to housing that is decent, affordable and accessible. We cannot do this work without you.    

Just ask Janet Tidwell, a tenant at 2022 S. Throop, about the role MTO played in making her Thanksgiving holiday a happier one. Since April 2014, she and her one-year old son have been living in the building, which had been illegally converted to a SRO. On November 18, just 10 days before Thanksgiving, the owner of the building distributed letters to each of the tenants.  The letter stated that the City of Chicago was closing the building and all the residents must vacate the premises within one week.

Ms Tidwell, who was formerly homeless, believed the SRO would provide her and her son with sustainable and affordable housing. Since moving-in, her life had stabilized, but then the landlord suddenly told her to go. “I was surprised and worried when I saw the Notice to Vacate from the city. It was cold; it was Thanksgiving; and my entire building was faced with the reality of becoming homeless. How could this happen?”  She went on, “Six days was too soon to find somewhere to go with my son without any money for a security deposit, movers, and a moving truck. I was so upset with the owner and management because they had done nothing.”  

The building’s owner had known since the end of September about the impending closure but chose not to inform the tenants of the court order until a moving date was upon them. The owner also refused to pay the tenants $1,500 in court-ordered relocation assistance.  With the help of MTO, the tenants set a meeting with the owner on Friday, November 21st just days before the police were to come and vacate the building.  The tenants hoped to convince the owner that without some money, they could not move on such short notice.  At the meeting in front of 20 people, the owner promised to return their security deposit and October’s rent on Saturday. Saturday came and went, as did Sunday, but these low-income renters never received the promised money.

The tenants stood together.  They refused to make themselves homeless. They asked the City of Chicago to give them more time so that they could find housing with the dignity and resources they deserved. The City agreed and gave the tenants an additional month to find housing and engaged a receiver to pay each household $1,500. 

In the end, the tenants at 2022 S. Throop all enjoyed Thanksgiving in their home.  Your financial support made a difference in the life of Janet Tidwell and her one year old son.  They did not have to return to a shelter.

MTO’s efforts go beyond helping individual tenants secure housing.  MTO organizes tenants to pass better laws. You can also be a part of our advocacy work, which looks to solve Chicago’s affordable housing crisis. The situation faced by Ms Tidwell and the other tenants residing at 2022 S. Throop Street are not unlike the situations faced by thousands of tenants across metropolitan Chicago. Too many renters are living in substandard conditions, paying too much for rent, or are unable to move into units because of accessibility issues. Together, with low-income renters, we can confront these barriers and change Chicago’s housing laws and policies.

With your support over the past years, MTO has succeeded in winning laws to prevent discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders, protect tenants in foreclosure, and guard against bed bugs.  Obviously, more is needed. Decent, safe and accessible housing should be standard for every neighborhood and all tenants because without housing it is nearly impossible to succeed and find a job, get a good education or stay healthy.  

As you make your decisions about end of the year giving, we invite you to help us help tenants like Janet Tidwell.  You can help ensure that everyone has housing that is decent, that it is affordable and that it is accessible.   You can help make housing a human right. Join the movement today.