Oak Park Housing Center's next act

Opinion: Editorials

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It's nice to be venerable. Better to be vital.

The Oak Park Regional Housing Center certainly checks the box for historical impact on the village's racial diversity over 45 years. Nothing diminishes that audacious start as it fostered ongoing white demand for rental housing in a moment when fear of racial resegregation was profound. 

Over time, the housing center adapted in multiple ways to attempt to address race and housing across a wider geography, including Forest Park, Berwyn and the West Side. Those results were mixed. Then as the technology of searching for an apartment went nearly fully digital, the housing center faced steep challenges in communicating its message and services. 

Now, a year after the resignation of Rob Breymaier as the center's longtime activist director, and in the same year as the death of Bobbie Raymond, the center's legendary founder, the nonprofit has gone back to fully reassess its mission and its methods. With a new strategic plan, with acknowledgement that it needs a funding base wider than a reliance on Oak Park's village government, the housing center has a new director in Athena Williams.

Well known as an activist on the West Side, and a resident there, Williams brings on-the-ground housing experience, deeply-made connections, and a new energy to a changing mission and tougher reality. She acknowledged in opening remarks at the center's annual gala on Sept. 26 that the housing center needs to become largely financially independent of government funding. Oak Park's village board, facing its own tight budgets and sporting a more critical view of the housing center, will be pleased.

More essentially, Williams needs to clarify the housing center's 2019 mission and execute it with purpose and passion.

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Alice Wellington  

Posted: October 11th, 2019 6:45 PM

The only mission of the Housing Center should be to close its doors for good. Enough already. This isn't the 70's any more, and we have laws to address housing discrimination. If East of Ridgeland landlords wish to find white renters, they must do it without the taxpayers' assistance.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: October 11th, 2019 4:24 PM

How many games of solitaire can the staff sit around and play while doing nothing and being funded on the backs of the Oak Park taxpayers? Unnecessary, unused and non essential. If we could have back what we dumped into this place the last ten years there would be no pension funding issue in town.

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