Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Open Communities hosts inaugural ‘Walk/Roll the Redline’ event, raises awareness on local housing discrimination

Misha Oberoi/The Daily Northwestern
Open Communities CEO Cheryl Lawrence said the “Walk/Roll the Redline” event was organized in honor of the 56th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

Open Communities, an Evanston-based housing advocacy nonprofit, hosted its inaugural “Walk/Roll the Redline” fundraising event Saturday afternoon.

The walk began at Twiggs Park and followed a route in Evanston’s 5th Ward. 

Open Communities CEO Cheryl Lawrence said the event was organized in honor of the 56th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. The goal of the walk was to educate Evanston residents about the historical practice of redlining in the 5th Ward and the present impact it has on community members, she said. 

“We’re here today to educate and learn, and we’re also here to activate and share ways in which people in the community can do more to support fair housing efforts,” Lawrence said. 

The 1.25-mile walk had stops at various historical sites in the 5th Ward, including the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center and Foster Park. Participants also stopped at Butler Park, which was established in 1930 to honor the late Dr. Isabella Garnett-Butler for her contributions to providing healthcare in Evanston’s Black community.

Lawrence said around 150 people registered for the walk. According to Open Communities’ website, it has raised over $33,700 of its $50,000 fundraising goal as of Sunday evening.

It’s important for people to talk about zoning issues in Evanston to determine how the city can improve its neighborhoods, Lawrence told The Daily.

Currently, some zoning districts in Evanston are limited to specific types of housing. For instance, only single-family homes are allowed in zoning districts R1 and R2.

“We have to start with zoning reform because a lot of neighborhoods are just zoned for single homes, and you really can’t do much else without a zoning variant,” Lawrence said. “What we really need is an abundance of housing and housing choices.”

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) attended the event to represent the city in place of Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), who she said was sick.

Members of Connections for the Homeless, First United Methodist Church of Evanston, Shorefront Legacy Center and other Evanston organizations were also present at the event. 

Along with its Winnetka branch, real estate agency Baird and Warner Evanston, one of the event’s advocate sponsors, donated $5,000 to the fundraiser, according to designated managing broker Catherine Leonard. Fifteen volunteers from the Evanston branch joined the walk.

Leonard said walks like the “Walk/Roll the Redline” help show that people care about housing issues and are not afraid to show it.

“By walking in the very neighborhood in which there had been such discrimination and frankly probably still is, I hope they can see that we support them and that we don’t like it,” Leonard said. “I just hope it makes somebody feel not alone.”

Both Lawrence and Sue Loellbach, the director of advocacy at Connections for the Homeless, said they feel the event aligns directly with the city’s Envision Evanston 2045 initiative, which includes a plan to develop a new zoning code.

Loellbach said Connections for the Homeless is currently working on a report that will dig deeper into specific clauses in the zoning code pertaining to restrictive zoning. She added that the city has participated in the report and has agreed to use it as input in their rewrite of the code. 

“We’re really excited that the work we’ve been doing can feed directly into the project that could potentially make some real change,” Loellbach said.

Ninth Ward resident Ginny Ayers, a volunteer with the Connections for the Homeless program Joining Forces that focuses on affordable housing, said she feels there’s a new push in Evanston for change, especially due to Envision Evanston.

“The impacts of redlining still exist, but there are ways to change that,” Loellbach said. “Not just (in the 5th Ward), but zoning will create change in other places too.”

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Related Stories:

Illinois housing management companies to settle with Open Communities 

Envision Evanston 2045 set to overhaul comprehensive plan, zoning code 

— ​​Evanston Health Department study reveals health inequities in 5th Ward

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