Our Mission

Open communities seeks to eradicate housing discrimination, in all of its forms, and against all persons, because of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sex, disability, familial status, or source of income. We believe that fair housing is a human right.

We will take all necessary and appropriate actions to further our goal of equal housing opportunities for all. To reach this goal, Open Communities engages in activities designed to encourage fair housing practices through educational efforts in the community; assisting persons who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination; and works to identify barriers to fair housing and to counteract and eliminate any discriminatory housing practices.


Where you live matters. Where you live determines how you live. Open Communities knows that where a person lives determines everything; access to high performing schools, jobs, health, transportation, recreation and green space. To that end, all communities, especially communities rich in resources and opportunities should be accessible for all people. In order to increase accessibility, systemic housing discrimination needs to be dismantled on every level. Our services empower all Homeseekers through education and outreach while holding communities and institutions accountable for discriminatory policies, procedures and actions.

Our History

Open Communities has its roots in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. A group of young mothers in Wilmette, led by Jean R. Cleland, were worried that their children were growing up in a community that lacked diversity, and they began to discuss how they could organize for change. There were no fair housing laws at that time, and local housing ads often stipulated, "No Negroes, Orientals or Jews."

These initial discussions gave birth to the North Shore Summer Project, an effort to persuade real estate agents in Chicago's northern suburbs to show and sell homes on a non-discriminatory basis. The project culminated with a rally on the Winnetka Village Green in 1965, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to a crowd of nearly 10,000 supporters, saying, "We must now learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools." Learn More.

Our Community | Serving Yours

Our expert staff members provide direct housing services to individuals. They also conduct community education, grassroots organizing, and monitor and take action on housing, economic and social justice issues facing north suburban communities. Members of the staff can speak Spanish as well as English. Members of our Board volunteer their time and resources to assure that the community is fully represented and engaged in the work we do.

Board Members

  • Lesley Williams, Co-President
  • Alisa Kaplan, Co-President
  • Herb Brenner, Treasurer
  • Bobby Burns
  • Emily Love
  • Dilnaz Waraich
  • Eve Williams
  • Robin Letchinger
  • Carol Golder