Little girl on Dad's shoulders

ABOUT
US

We fight for fair housing.

 

We believe that where you live matters, and where you live determines how you live. All communities—especially communities rich in resources and opportunities—must be accessible to all people.

 

Open Communities encourages fair housing practices through education, including landlord-tenant and foreclosure counseling services and community education to make our communities in the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago welcoming for everyone. All of our services are free and include Housing Counseling and Education, Fair Housing Investigations, and Enforcement.

READ A FAIR HOUSING INVESTIGATOR'S STORY.

OUR MISSION

The mission of Open Communities is to ensure that housing in north suburban Chicago is fair and inclusive.

We do this by educating, advocating, and organizing to eradicate housing discrimination, in all of its forms and against all persons, due to race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, disability, familial status, or source of income.

Four small children
 
Fair Housing march in 1965

OUR HISTORY

Open Communities is rooted in the Civil Rights Movement when local women and religious leaders organized the North Shore Summer Project to protest housing discrimination. The group culminated its activities with a rally on the Winnetka Village Green in 1965, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to a crowd of 10,000, his first civil rights rally in an all-white suburb. After a few years of informal collaboration, the North Shore Interfaith Housing Council was formally organized in 1972 by a group of congregations "to provide an ongoing vehicle for the religious expression of concern for more inclusive communities and the provision of housing for persons of moderate and low incomes."  

 

Over the years that followed, the Council created the North Suburban Housing Center in 1977 to provide supportive services and The Interfaith Housing Development Corporation in 1983 to develop needed affordable housing in the target communities. Upon the retirement in 1986 of founding director Rayna Miller, the Council and the Center merged to form the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs, combining services and advocacy. The Development Corporation (now Housing Opportunity Development Corporation) remained independent. The organization continued to grow and expand in response to the evolving challenges facing the communities and, in 2012, changed its name to Open Communities.

 

OUR
BOARD

Executive Committee

President  

Carol W. Golder

Marketing Executive and Philanthropist

 

Vice President

Frank Clements

Real Estate and Marketing Professional

 

Treasurer  

Herbert Brenner 

Certified Public Accountant

Member, Northbrook Justice Team And Northbrook Working Families Coalition

Members At Large

Jessica Flores 

Director of Board Relations and Innovation Northwestern University Settlement Assoc.

 

Adam Klingher 

Multifamily Properties Owner Financial Loan Professional

 

Emily Love 

Owner & Attorney, Law Office of Emily Love, P.C.  

 

Erica Page Muhammad 

Housing and Financial Solutions Leader

 

Emily Mueller 

Community Revitalization Planning Specialist

 

Joanne Rogers 

VP of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate

 

Lisa Miceli 

Vice President, Sales at Fleetwood + Miceli Residential 

Business meeting
 
 

OUR PEOPLE

Our staff is small yet mighty, but our capacity is limited. We make every effort to return all calls and e-mails within 2 business days.

MARY ELLEN BALL

Mary Ellen is in her dream role empowering our staff and clients to work for housing justice throughout the Chicagoland area. She has spent her entire career focused on affordable housing, fair housing, and homelessness and is passionate about creating large-scale social change. Mary Ellen lives in Evanston with her two radical children, a bonus stepson and a hilarious husband. She loves senior dogs, the perfect cup of coffee, laughing until she's crying, and connecting to messy and perfectly imperfect humans (because she herself is one of those too).

Chief Executive Officer

Chris believes it's a lawyer's duty to act as a civic loudspeaker by giving a voice to those without one. He has dedicated his career to representing people who have been injured by various forms of injustice. He has significant courtroom experience representing plaintiffs in civil court and defendants in criminal court. His legal acumen and keen eye for investigating wrongdoing make him a power player in our housing litigation programs and the fair housing testing program. He lives in Lincoln Square with his wife and cat and loves tinkering with electronics, building computers, and woodworking.

CHRISTOPHER RIEHLMANN

Director of Fair Housing

JASEMEN HATCHER

Jasemen is a force of knowledge, passion, and experience in racial equity in housing and community development. She counsels clients in everything from foreclosure prevention to renters' rights to home finance and runs outreach and education workshops to teach community members about just housing. In addition to her international education, she has held roles in leadership programs in Chicago, developing racial equity programs worldwide and volunteering with local political organizations centered on civil rights. Jasemen lives in the South Loop with her son and says the issues her clients face often keep her up at night.

Director of Housing Counseling & Education

Maurya doesn't miss an opportunity to build a better community. Whether she's participating in anti-racist diversity training or volunteering in her school community, she is always dedicated to inclusion and helping those in need. She's using her experience as a classroom teacher and her own education in community advocacy to support Open Communities with fundraising and grant writing. Maurya lives in Evanston with her amazing family and sweet dog. She aspires to be an avid reader if life would allow the time.

MAURYA DELANEY

Director of Development

SARAH COHEN

Sarah joined Open Communities, knowing she could use her first language to help Hispanic Limited English Speakers. Along the way, she has discovered she loves advocating for the right to Fair Housing. She spends her time making the day easier for her co-workers so they can keep changing the world one case at a time. Sarah grew up in Mexico City, Mexico, in a Jewish community with the goal of becoming a professional actor and has found some success on the local stage.

Executive Assistant/ Office Manager

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ANDREA RAMIREZ

Andrea graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2018 with a double major in Anthropology and Sociology and German studies. Andrea has gained professional expertise while working with nonprofits and communities, and she is thrilled to use that experience and knowledge to push forward OC's mission. She is passionate about advocating and empowering those in underserved communities and is happy to work with a team that shares her dedication to the growth and advancement of all. Andrea is a dog lover, and she enjoys spending her time in the kitchen cooking meals from all over the world!

Outreach and Communications Coordinator

Portrait of Smiling Man

After decades as a trader and entrepreneur, Mark came to Open Communities looking for something different and discovered the importance of fair housing. Mark's background running the numbers for businesses is key to Open Communities' operation. He's honored to work for an organization committed to the equal treatment of tenants, renters, and property owners. He is proud to keep the funds moving so his colleagues can continue the important work of eradicating housing discrimination in all its forms. 

MARK WESTCOTT

Director of Accounting

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PAULINA CARRILLO

Paulina was born and raised in the heart of the city. She is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and obtained a degree in Communication. Paulina has a particular interest in utilizing her native Spanish-speaking skills as a resource for non-English speakers and helping them find solutions for easier living. She believes in using your voice to create change and promote equality in the community. Paulina spends her free time learning the Italian language and culture and making cooking recipe videos.

Intake Specialist

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DALAL FIHAKHIR

Dalal's experience in advocacy work has cemented her passion for social justice. She strives to support and empower underserved populations. With her educational background in Urban Development and her strong cultural competency, she helps ensure that the efforts of Open Communities reach community partners and the families in the North Suburbs of Chicago. In her free time, she likes to connect with her friends (the power of a good laugh) and bake (her three children are her best fans). She has lived in four different countries, speaks three languages, and loves to add Spanish to her language skills.

Outreach and Compliance Coordinator

Smiling Man

Cody's mission in life is to advocate equality and justice for those in need. He brings his experience in community development, government administration, and legal background to the Open Communities team. Born and raised in Chicago, he is proud to serve the Chicagoland area in housing discrimination, landlord-tenant mediation, and consultations. Cody resides in the South Suburbs of Chicago and spends his free time with his family, exploring the world around them and connecting with people of all backgrounds.

CODY MORRISON

Assistant Director of Housing Counseling & Education

Wearing Masks in Office

COVID-19

As Covid-19 continues to affect all of us worldwide, here at Open Communities, we are doing our part to keep our staff and clients safe. We are following the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) state and local governments and departments of public health.

 

As of August 2021, we are back to working remotely after a brief return to the office.  We can accommodate in-person client meetings when essential (due to disability, age, or other circumstances). Clients must be vaccinated for an in-person meeting. We also continue to meet with clients via Zoom. 

 

Sometimes working as a remote team leads to delayed responses. We appreciate your patience and understanding when it comes to our remote setup.  

 

For everyone’s safety, all staff, interns, and volunteers must be fully vaccinated by October 15.