What does an inclusive and diverse suburb look like, and how do we make it happen?
Check out our Spring 2013 newsletter, featuring a two-page garden-like map of our suburbs that you can post on your wall. Read about our latest work, and learn about our transformation last October to Open Communities.
Why Open Communities? The name says it all.
It succinctly reflects our values and our vision since opening our doors. Our roots as a housing justice agency are in the Civil Rights Movement, when acts of racial and religious discrimination pervaded the suburbs. A group of women and clergy organized the North Shore Summer Project in 1961 to act as the vehicle for social change. That campaign evolved into the North Shore Interfaith Housing Council in 1972, the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs in 1986, and in 2012, Open Communities.
Today, the main obstacle to diverse communities is an atmosphere of exclusivity, complemented by costly housing and unequal access to quality education, transportation networks, youth programming, and cultural amenities.
Our commitment to housing justice remains steadfast. In broadening our mission to address other economic and social policies that influence the diversity of a community, we aim to set an example for the nation of grassroots suburban advocacy that promotes welcoming communities.
We remain driven by our founders’ progressive energy and fearlessness to help communities, grassroots groups and individuals create an inclusive, interconnected and open North Shore.
Communities are richer when those who give to the northern suburbs also live here.
In this newsletter, we talk about the new name, the “Open Up!” event last October at which Open Communities was launched, and updates on all our programs: Foreclosure Prevention, Homesharing, Landlord/Tenant Advice and Fair Housing. Also included is a feature on our immigrant leadership development work, a “call to action” for affordable housing on the North Shore, and a beautiful new poster title “the Inclusive & Diverse Community”.
As of October 28, 2012, the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs is Open Communities.
The agency announced this transformation at a public gathering on at the DoubleTree Hotel in Skokie, where over 100 people from throughout the area gathered to launch a new “Welcome Movement” on the North Shore.
In congratulating Open Communities, the two keynote speakers, S. Alan Ray, President of Elmhurst College, and Dawn Turner Trice of the Chicago Tribune, spoke of the importance of inclusion instead of separating the haves from the have-nots, a gulf that is widening.
“We shape our communities and afterward, they shape us,” Ms. Trice paraphrased Winston Churchill, as she reflected on her own movement between neighborhoods as an African American who began life in the racially segregated south side of Chicago.
Dr. Ray added that communities must “empower members of socially marginalized groups to define and state their own agendas and take for themselves the leading role in working them out.”
He added that, “Once we recognize that the center and margins, even in this metaphor, are aspects of a single community of interests, civic engagement can never again be seen as a stepping out of or down from an ivory tower into the messy world of civic life, a gesture of noblesse oblige.”
To foster inclusive and diverse communities, beyond fair housing enforcement and advocating for affordable housing, the northern suburbs must look at transportation networks, youth programming, job opportunities and cultural amenities, and a complementary commitment to openness. This was reinforced by the study the Interfaith Housing Center released earlier in October, completed under a HUD grant, of outsider perspectives of the northern suburbs.
“This is the new fair housing frontier,” says executive director Gail Schechter.
- Join Open Communities. You will receive a membership card, a magnet that you can proudly place on your refrigerator or car, and the satisfaction of knowing that you are an ambassador of welcome in the northern suburbs. A regular individual membership is $75, or $10 for students and low-income persons.
- Become a Fair Housing Tester and earn a modest stipend for while providing a valuable service. This is one way we investigate housing discrimination.
- Join HousingMatters.net. It’s one-click advocacy that works! Action alerts inform you about critical housing issues in Illinois and allow you to contact your legislators directly. It’s free, easy, quick, and it multiplies your voice.