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.
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 OF DIRECTORS
Carol Golder is a retired marketing professional who is passionate about justice and equality. This passion led her to Open Communities, where she uses her boundless energy to work to make fair and diverse housing a reality in the north and northwestern suburbs. Carol has served on a variety of boards in the area. She resides in Glencoe with her husband, David.
Emily Love has practiced exclusively in immigration and nationality law since 1993. In 1999, she opened the Law Office of Emily Love, P.C., in Evanston. Throughout her career, Emily has collaborated with various local and national nonprofit immigrant and refugee legal services agencies. She has witnessed first-hand how housing discrimination affects immigrants and joined Open Communities to help put an end to it. She lives in Highland Park with her family.
Adam Klinger is a real estate professional and president of Greenwood Beach Partners, a boutique investment firm specializing in the acquisition and asset management of class A/B multifamily housing. Adam holds an MBA in Accounting and Finance from the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis and a BA in History from Lake Forest College. Adam has two adult children and lives in Evanston with his wife, Amy, and dog, Lily.
Years ago, Herb Brenner came to Open Communities as a Fair Housing tester. He has advocated for affordable housing, created the Northbrook Working Family Coalition, and promoted the Cook County minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinances. Professionally, Herb is a CPA who specializes in taxation. He lives in Northbrook with his partner, Patti.
A native of Chicago, Katari Henderson obtained her Bachelor of Science in Business Finance from Alabama A&M University. She provides over 15 years of Financial Industry experience. Katari currently serves as Manager of Treasury for the Chicago Transit Authority. She is elated to be working with an organization that fights against housing inequality and helps provide guidance for housing security. Katari enjoys traveling with her husband and two boys.
As a North Shore native and Evanston resident for 30+ years, Grace values the diversity that Evanston brings to the North Shore. Grace is a licensed Realtor in the State of Illinois, with Baird and Warner as her brokerage company. She enjoys cooking, hiking, dinners with friends, and traveling in her spare time.
Jessica Flores was born in Mexico City and grew up in Chicago's West Town community. She is a first-generation college graduate with more than fifteen years of leadership experience in the nonprofit social service and education sector. Currently, she is the Director of Innovation, Economic Mobility Partnerships at Feeding America., As a Board member, she looks to continue to center neighbors by supporting the mission to eradicate housing discrimination.
Connie Berman is a Managing Director of CIBC Bank US where she focuses on client relationship management and business development. She has served the banking needs of North Shore residents and businesses since 1995. Active in local and community affairs, Connie currently serves on the Plan & Zoning Commission for the Village of Northfield, has served on the boards of Winnetka-Northfield United Way and Winnetka-Northfield Rotary Club, and is the former board president of Haven Youth and Family Services.
Rose Shapiro, MSW, is the Community Development Manager at JCUA, an organization bringing together the Jewish community to pursue justice in partnership with neighbors across the state. She manages the Community Ventures Program, a zero-interest loan fund for affordable housing and economic development projects. Rose is grateful to be part of Open Communities, an organization with endless care for clients and dedication to the pursuit of fair housing.
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.
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 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 reaches 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.
SARAH B. PETERSEN
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.
Assistant 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.
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Claire Bacon is our Education and Outreach Coordinator. She grew up in Rock Island and moved to Chicago to attend UIC to earn a Master’s in Social Work. After graduating, Claire did case management and housing advocacy for an Evanston non-profit that helps people experiencing homelessness and housing instability. She is passionate about housing justice and believes deeply in the power of community building. She enjoys cooking, yoga, loving her cats, and watching the Real Housewives in her free time.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Outreach/Strategic Planning Coordinator
EVE SUBRIN WILLIAMS
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.
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.