Interfaith Housing Center Changes Name to Open Communities

Open Communities’ mission is to educate, advocate and organize to promote just and inclusive communities in north suburban Chicago.

Information provided by Open Communities, formerly Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs. 

The Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs recently changed its name to Open Communities. 

The agency announced this transformation at a public gathering on Oct. 28 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Skokie, where over 100 people from throughout the area gathered to launch a new “Welcome Movement” on the North Shore. 

In congratulating Open Communities, the two keynote speakers, S. Alan Ray, President of Elmhurst College, and Dawn Turner Trice of the Chicago Tribune, spoke of the importance of inclusion instead of separating the haves from the have-nots, a gulf that is widening.

As Ms. Trice paraphrased Winston Churchill, “We shape our communities and afterward, they shape us.”  

Dr. Ray added that communities must “empower members of socially marginalized groups to define and state their own agendas and take for themselves the leading role in working them out.”  

He added that, “Once we recognize that the center and margins, even in this metaphor, are aspects of a single community of interests, civic engagement can never again be seen as a stepping out of or down from an ivory tower into the messy world of civic life, a gesture of noblesse oblige.” 

With this new name comes an expanded scope beyond housing to encompass economic and social justice, still with inclusive and diverse northern Chicago suburbs as our guiding vision. Inclusive and diverse communities are healthy, robust and right. Our communities are richer when those who give to the northern suburbs also live here. 

In addition to fair housing enforcement and advocating for affordable housing, the northern suburbs must look at transportation networks, youth programming, job opportunities and cultural amenities to complement a commitment to openness.  This was reinforced by the study the InterfaithHousing Center released, completed under a HUD grant earlier this year, of outsider perspectives of the northern suburbs and willingness to move to this Chicago sub-region.  

“This is the new fair housing frontier,” says executive director Gail Schechter

Why the change? The name says it all.

Open Communities’ mission is to educate, advocate and organize to promote just and inclusive communities in north suburban Chicago. The change provides the opportunity to expand the agency’s capacity to assist local residents to come together around related issues such as equitable public school funding and immigrant integration in addition to fair and affordable housing. 

Here's what is not changing:

  • Our commitment to promoting fair and affordable housing remains strong.
  • We are still guided by the tenet of loving our neighbor.
  • We are still a membership organization, including community groups and congregations, with an expansion to individuals.
  • We continue to serve the 16 northern suburbs of Deerfield, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Northfield, Park Ridge, Skokie, Wilmette, and Winnetka.
  • The public will continue to work with the same staff members. 
  • Our Winnetka office and all phone numbers are the same. 

The new name succinctly reflects the vision we've had since opening our doors 40 years. Founded in 1972 by north suburban residents and congregations, we are a nonprofit, membership-based organization dedicated to fostering economically and culturally diverse communities. We educate, advocate and organize in the name of social justice, working collaboratively with current and prospective residents, local groups and municipalities.

Our programs include:

  • Fair Housing Discrimination Investigation & Education
  • Foreclosure Prevention Counseling
  • Homesharing
  • Landlord/Tenant Advice
  • Immigrant Leadership Development
  • Affordable Housing Advocacy
  • Community Organizing.
Winnetka November 15, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Congrats Interfaith Housing on your transformation. Including an atheist on your board is quite a transition!


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