We are excited to introduce our new Fair Housing Associate, Dominic Voz. He brings an unmatched passion and drive that will help shape the future of Open Communities and Fair Housing on the North Shore.
I am originally from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a pastoral lake town in the state's northern panhandle. Growing up in Idaho in a mixed-race Latinx family was challenging and certainly informed my current work.
Bitter from my experiences in the public school system, I skipped the typical college-after-high-school step and instead joined AmeriCorps NCCC at 19, a national team-based service organization. That year-long experience changed my life forever; we participated in carpentry projects in the Gulf region, worked with a homeless services organization in Salt Lake City, and mentored kids in Sacramento. After a year full of inspiring projects and relationship-building, I moved to Portland, OR, where I began working in the mental health sector with children and families. For the majority of the next 11 years, I worked for the same agency in various capacities, providing direct therapeutic services as a “skills trainer” to young people struggling with trauma, mental health disorders, and tumultuous family systems.
At long last, I pursued a formal education, first in music and photography, then eventually in social work. I moved to Chicago in 2020 to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago.
What brought you to Open Communities?
During a wonderful internship at the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA), I worked with incredible advocates and met leaders in other housing-related organizations. Open Communities is a member of CAFHA. After I graduated and searched for a position, CAFHA Co-Executive Director Gianna Baker recommended I look into an opening here.
What do you do as a Fair Housing Associate?
Right now, my work has two components: fair housing enforcement (how I spend most of my time), where I work with fair housing testing and investigations in our service area, and supporting fair housing education through workshops and outreach. This work is critically important in the broader fight to eliminate discrimination and create more equitable communities. It is vital in the city of Chicago, given its long history of severe racial segregation.
What is important to know about fair housing right now?
The Covid-19 pandemic has had profound effects everywhere.
Some of these effects – such as highlighting the vast racial disparities in our society – have been positive and have led to increased scrutiny on forms of injustice and led to a flow of real investment in solutions. But many have been incredibly harmful to the most marginalized in our communities.
"We know that a massive number of folks are suffering right now. At the same time, some organizations have actually seen a drop in engagement from community members, instead of an increase."
People feel isolated, alone, fatigued by the pandemic, virtual meetings, and endless disease metrics. People rightfully feel distant from the institutions and organizations that were once significant parts of their lives.
The most important thing I can communicate is to encourage individuals who need our services that we are here and want to grow our presence in the fight for fair and just housing. Partner with us. Reach out. Help us make fair housing for everyone a reality.
And there are two sides to that encouragement: I also challenge myself and my colleagues here at Open Communities to reconstitute any connections that may have frayed over this challenging time and remake them even stronger than they were before.