For Random Acts of Kindness month, we asked our Board Chair, Carol Golder, to talk about why she gives her time, talent, and treasure to Open Communities.
I give so others who have experienced systemic inequities in our society can move forward.
I give because I am a mother and can't imagine a landlord turning me away from a rental opportunity in a good neighborhood because I am Black with a Section 8 housing voucher - which happened to our client Denise in Skokie.
I give because discrimination is real and can affect the ability to find or stay in secure housing. Our client, Aaron, a gay person of color who had medical issues experienced this. His landlord tried to evict him when he disclosed his medical problem.
I give because I believe quality affordable housing security is a human right.
I give because even though I grew up white with a single mom, I was never housing insecure, but my friends were.
In the mid-1970s, I lived in a small, rural but integrated community in Missouri. I had noticed that the Black kids in our school mostly lived in an area with more run-down homes but nicer cars. I knew that they lived on land granted to them by the landowner at the abolishment of slavery.
As my friend's mom drove us home from school one day, I asked why they had fancier cars than homes. I knew some of them slept in the cars in the winter because their homes lacked heat. I was baffled as to why they would choose to spend their money on cars and not on improving their homes. My friend's mom explained that they didn't' decide to own better cars than warm homes; the bank did. Banks would not give Black families home improvement or building loans even though that was against the law. But it was against a law that nobody enforced. Black families could get a car loan, though. So, the families did what they had to do. They bought a car with good heat and survived on their land however they could.
The gap between Black homeownership and white homeownership is MORE than in 1960 before the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
At the time, I didn't understand the logic, but what did I, a white privileged high schooler, know about systemic racism? Nothing – but I learned.
I learned that the gifts I was given at birth mean I have a responsibility to create an equal world for everyone.
I learned that divisions built into the system we all lean on – education, public safety, jobs, and home rental/ownership create a cycle where we all hold back people of color.
I learned that laws might be the first step, but laws do not always lead to needed change or compliance.
I naively thought that on the North Shore, fair and equal housing was not a problem - it was only a problem in other areas. Again, what did I know? Nothing.
I began to understand that housing, fair housing, is not an option for everyone.
Even though I have worked with Open Communities for many years, the number of people on the North Shore who face housing discrimination continues to shock me. In 2021, the fact that banks can deny a home mortgage or home improvement loan to a person of color with the same financial scores as a white person is ridiculous. That a landlord makes up a problem – "noise violation" is popular – to evict a tenant because of their religion or sexual orientation should not be allowed.
These instances are not legal, but they happen more often than anyone wants to admit.
That is why an organization like Open Communities matter. It is the ONLY place in the north and northwest suburbs that provide FREE housing counseling and investigate housing discrimination. MOST of our clients are one step away from being homeless.
I shared why I give. It is Random Acts of Kindness month. Consider a random act of kindness and give what you can to Open Communities. With an unprecedented number of people facing eviction, we are preparing for the largest fight we have ever had, and we need you to join us.
"If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else." Toni Morrison