top of page
Love is Love.jpg


Where you live matters. Where you live determines how you live. Where you live even determines how long you live. Open Communities (OC) knows that where a person lives determines everything; access to jobs, health, transportation, recreation, green space, and high-performing schools. Homeownership contributes to generational wealth, and having a stable place to live improves health outcomes, life expectancy, and quality of life. In order to increase accessibility, systemic housing discrimination needs to be dismantled on every level.

Open Communities makes our area more welcoming for all by investigating and enforcing fair housing practices, preventing eviction and foreclosure through free housing counseling, and fighting housing discrimination through education and advocacy. Our goal is to advance the economic empowerment of those most marginalized while holding communities and institutions accountable for discriminatory policies.



Open Communities works to eradicate housing discrimination and unjust practices that perpetuate segregation and inequity. We foster thriving, inclusive communities through fair housing enforcement, housing counseling, education, outreach, and advocacy.

Father with his Son
Fair Housing march in 1965


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.



Grace Miya_edited_edited.jpg
Jessica Flores.jpg


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.


HUD-Certified Housing Counselor


Anayeli graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 2019 with a bachelor’s in Justice Studies and a minor in Criminology and Child Advocacy. She gained professional expertise while working and volunteering in nonprofit organizations. In her previous role, she served as a Case Manager working directly with the homeless population connecting them with community resources. Anayeli is passionate about helping those in need and is excited to bring that energy and passion to supporting those in her community of Evanston. Anayeli enjoys traveling and getting to know new places around the world.

Sarah B portrait.jpg

HUD-Certified Housing Counselor


Sarah graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 2019 with a Bachelors of Social Work. She has been working in non-profits for about 4 years, and has gained significant experience in working with individuals and families experiencing housing instability. Sarah has a passion for helping and loves to uplift others to see their strength in the challenging moments of their lives. She is excited to start her journey at OC and be a part of a team that shares the same passion for our community. She loves anything and everything outdoors. Her ideal day is filled with sunshine, live music, and good friends.

Director of Housing Counseling and Education
HUD-Certified Housing Counselor


Sarah Delgado has a passion for social justice and almost 10 years of housing equity experience. She oversees intake and housing counseling staff, provides direct client support through counseling and community education, and ensures that her team has appropriate training and resources. Previously, Sarah worked in policy and advocacy for Fair Housing rights at the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA). She was also a Housing Counselor, Condominium Program Coordinator, and Interim Executive Director at Lakeside Community Development Corporation.


Community Navigator


As Community Navigator, DaVon provides outreach to share information about rights and helps clients navigate complex systems.  After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Ohio University, DaVon’s commitment to service led him to LA, where he served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer with City Year. DaVon then entered the nonprofit, government, and political sectors where he learned about the power of community and advocating for others. DaVon now lives in Chicago and attends Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science for his Master of Science in Nursing. DaVon enjoys hanging out with his friends and family and exploring new corners of the world.

Open Communities - BF8A9421.jpg

Client Services Coordinator


Sarah Price, JD, considers herself a lifelong learner. She has spent the bulk of her legal career in the non-profit sector: advocating for the rights of individuals who are homeless to meaningfully access their education, representing tenants in eviction cases, and advising individuals with disabilities about their civil rights. Her combined background in education and law fuels her passion for helping people learn about their individual rights and available community resources. She lives in Evanston with her spouse and two children and is thrilled to be working with a team devoted to ensuring fair and inclusive housing in her hometown. 

Kenya Barbara.jpg

Test Coordinator


Kenya was born and raised in Chicago. She grew up in Public Housing which birthed her passion for criminal justice reform and fair housing/housing reform. Kenya earned her BA in Political Science and Justice Studies at Northeastern Illinois University and her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Her Commitment to social justice led to internships with Legal Council for Health Justice, CGLA, and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, followed by full-time employment with Legal Aid Chicago and Westside Justice Center. Kenya enjoys watching Beyonce concerts, reading, and watching sports during her spare time.

Addie Staff Portrait-1.jpg

Fair Housing Associate


Adelaide del Angel grew up in Chicago and Evanston before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She studied Molecular and Cellular Biology pre-medicine, but after graduating in 2020, she began to transition to the world of public health and policy. Since then, she has worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA at a nonprofit clinic in Chicago and completed a fellowship with Cook County Government through the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. As the Fair Housing Associate with Open Communities, she will continue her pursuit of knowledge in public health from a holistic standpoint while working to expand organizational capacity through outreach, education, and advocacy.

AmeriCorps VISTA


Vanessa A. Johnson-McCoy was born and raised in Evanston. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She held various corporate positions in Human Resources before becoming a licensed real estate broker. She is part of our Fair Housing team, researching fair housing laws, designing workshops, and speaking to public audiences, among other outreach and educational activities. She strives to daily reflect her motto to have a Victorious And Joyously Marvelous attitude and encourages others to do the same.


Community Navigator Coordinator


Mayra is bilingual/bicultural and uses her lived experiences and knowledge of overcoming hardship to help others. Prior to Open Communities, Mayra worked as a District 65 Parent Advocate connecting with families most in need through parenting education and support of the parent-child relationship. As a Community Navigator, Mayra provides outreach to the community in Spanish and English to help educate residents about their rights. Mayra lives in Evanston with her family, volunteers for Latinos en Evanston Northshore (LENS), as well as enjoys connecting with friends, nature walks, reading, and watching movies.


Outreach Coordinator


Eve Subrin Williams, JD, joins Open Communities with a desire to bring her knowledge of employment discrimination to housing. Eve uses her community outreach and Board experience to expand awareness about housing discrimination throughout the north shore and to build partnerships with new allies. Her 2022 Northwestern University certification in Leading Equity and Inclusion in Organizations offers a fresh lens on how the organization’s Strategic Planning and Equity Audit can be embedded moving forward.

Dalal 1.png

Director of Development


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 OC 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 and speaks three languages, and would love to add Spanish to her language skills.


Director of Operations


Maurya doesn't miss an opportunity to build a better community. Whether 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 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.

Cheryl - BF8A1553 (4).jpeg

Chief Executive Officer


Cheryl Lawrence, JD, has executive-level experience in nonprofit and business sectors. She served as the Executive Director at Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing, one of Illinois' preeminent housing and legal-aid organizations. She is excited to bring her many years of leadership experience to support fair and equitable housing opportunities on the North Shore. She lives in Evanston with her wife and daughter.


Development Associate


Sarah B. Petersen, LCSW, is a community connector who uses linkages to create meaningful change for equity and justice. Trained as a clinical social worker, Sarah has over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit, education, mental health, and interfaith sectors. Through volunteer work advancing racial equity in Evanston’s public education and civic arenas, Sarah recognizes the central role fair and affordable housing plays in creating inclusive, just, and vibrant communities. Sarah lives in Evanston with her family and loves spending time in nature, reading, and being creative.

Dominic Portrati 12-21-22-1.jpg

Director of Fair Housing


After more than a decade of therapeutic work with youth and families in the mental health sector, Dominic shifted towards the policy and administrative side of social work practice. Inspired by The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, he decided his passion was in the realm of housing justice, organizing and advocating for the human rights of all people to access safe and affordable housing, free from discrimination. He graduated with a Master's  at the University of Chicago's Crown School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice in June 2021. He joined our team in December of that same year.

Wearing Masks in Office


As Covid-19 continues to affect all of us worldwide, 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.

Currently, we are working both remotely and in the office on different days. We can work with clients over the phone, and via Zoom. 


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

bottom of page