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Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
11:18am
Fri Sep 25, 2015

Chicago Soup Kitchen Sees Uptick Of Those In Need, Leaders Blame Ongoing Budget Standoff (VIDEO)

A soup kitchen on Chicago's North Side says they've seen an uptick in the number of individuals depending on their free meals since the state's budget impasse started nearly three months ago.

On Thursday, representatives from the kitchen joined with state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and other nonprofits to call for an end to the standoff and urge lawmakers to fully fund the services Illinois' most vulnerable citizens depend upon.

"A lot of the folks that come to the community kitchen rely on services that are being slashed, so they have to come here," said Rev. Marilyn Pagan Banks, executive director of A Just Harvest, which serves free meals every day to people in need at 7649 N. Paulina St. in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
10:36pm
Thu May 28, 2015

Consumer Protection Agency Probing Student Loan Services; Researchers Analyze Borrowing At For-Profit Colleges

On the heels of new research detailing trends in student loan burdens at for-profit colleges, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a public inquiry earlier this month into student loan servicing practices. 

Quick Hit
by La Risa Lynch
7:13pm
Wed May 13, 2015

Chuy Garcia: Grassroots Movement Must Shift Focus On State’s Financial Woes

Former Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia urged those attending a teach-in on the state's budget to use the grassroots momentum gained from the city's hotly-contested mayoral race as a means to combat austerity measures that could adversely impact vulnerable communities.

The Cook County Commissioner forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a historic runoff when Emanuel failed to get the votes needed to secure an outright win in February's municipal election. Garcia lost to Emanuel in the April runoff by 12.4 percentage points.

Garcia spoke at the teach-in held at the McKinley Park Branch Library, 1915 W. 35th St. The McKinley Park Progressive Alliance hosted the event.

"This mayoral election was one of the most contested in recent history ... and one that has created space for community groups to be active in and for different movements to amply their voices and exert some influence and power," Garcia said.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:42pm
Wed Jan 28, 2015

Activists Bring Fight To Save A Rogers Park 'Community House' To Citibank (VIDEO)

About 30 Chicago housing activists picketed outside a Citibank branch Wednesday morning as part of their ongoing fight to save a Rogers Park "community house."

Organizers toted signs reading, "I support the house on Ridge" and "Housing is a human right," while tenants of the home, located at 7245 N. Ridge Ave., were inside the branch attempting to meet with a Citibank mortgage representative to discuss their offer to purchase the foreclosed property.

Jorge Ortiz, an organizer with Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, lives in the home with his family, including his mother and uncle. Ortiz and his family moved into the Rogers Park home in 2012 after the previous property owner, who was facing foreclosure, abandoned it. Organizers said Citibank later purchased the home at a foreclosure auction.

The current tenants of the bank-owned home, with the help of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, turned the property into a "community house" that hosts clothing drives, movie screenings, health fairs and other neighborhood events. People who have had difficulties finding affordable housing also stay there, organizers said. The tenants at the property are currently facing eviction.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:40pm
Thu Sep 18, 2014

Chicago Housing Activists Fight To Save A Rogers Park 'Community House' (VIDEO)

Chicago housing activists are fighting to halt the eviction of tenants living in a Rogers Park home who have turned the property into a community center.

The tenants of the home, located at 7245 N. Ridge Ave., had their first eviction court date Thursday morning at the Richard J. Daley Center, and about a dozen community members came out to support them.

Jorge Ortiz, an organizer with Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, lives in the home with his family, including his mother and uncle. Ortiz and his family moved into the Rogers Park home two years ago after the previous property owner, who was facing foreclosure, abandoned it. The current tenants, with the help of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, turned the property into a "community house," which has a neighborhood garden and hosts clothing drives, movie screenings and health fairs, activists said.

The tenants and their supporters want CitiMortgage, which the organizers say currently owns the home after purchasing it at a foreclosure auction, to negotiate with them and consider donating the property or selling it at a low cost to a Chicago-based community land trust.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:17pm
Fri Aug 15, 2014

Albany Park Community Land Trust Close To Locking In First Home Donation (VIDEO)

Leaders with Centro Autónomo in Albany Park say the group's effort to establish a community land trust to secure affordable housing in the northwest Chicago neighborhood is moving forward.

Centro Autónomo, also known as the Albany Park Autonomous Center, is currently asking financial institutions to donate local homes in foreclosure to its Casas del Pueblo Community Land Trust, a non-profit that wants to turn the properties into permanent affordable housing for low-income residents. Both Casas del Pueblo and the Centro Autónomo are projects of the Mexico Solidarity Network.

So far, no homes have been donated to the community land trust, which officially launched in 2011. But Antonio Gutierrez, housing coordinator at Centro Autónomo, said the organization has a negotiation session planned for September with Fannie Mae. Another meeting with a national representative of donations for Wells Fargo is scheduled for the end of August.

Gutierrez and others with the effort are optimistic the community land trust will receive its first donated home within the next several months. 

"Casas del Pueblo needs to put as much pressure as we can right now [on the financial institutions], because this is a time when we're almost sure that we can get this donation by the end of the year," he said.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:47pm
Fri Jul 11, 2014

FHFA: 36,000 Underwater Chicago-Area Homeowners Eligible For Refinance Program (VIDEO)

Thousands of Chicago-area residents are eligible for, but have not taken advantage of, the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, which provides refinance opportunities for certain underwater homeowners.

Nearly 36,000 borrowers in the Chicago metro area are eligible to save between $2,000 to $3,000 annually by refinancing their mortgages as part of the program, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
5:50pm
Thu Jun 5, 2014

Social Service Advocates Warn Of 'Significant' Cuts In Flat Illinois Budget

Child welfare and human services advocates say the the $35.7 billion 'flat' budget approved last week by the Illinois General Assembly includes significant cuts to critical programs.

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