The graffitied windows in the home at 6210 S. Fairfield Avenue boast of a different kind of take-over than they did only a few short months ago. On Thursday, May 19, residents of the 6200 south block of Fairfield, elementary school officials, religious leaders, school children, neighborhood families, city and state representatives, and members from three non-profit organizations reclaimed the house on Fairfield and marked it as their own. Volunteers and residents held a barbeque on the front lawn, picked up trash around the house and down the block, began the process of building a fence and plotting a community garden in the backyard, and painted a mural on the home’s doors and windows.
Several months ago, IMAN, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), and Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) began discussing possibilities for how the three community based organizations could have an impact in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood around the issues of housing and foreclosures. Chicago Lawn was one of the areas hardest hit by foreclosures after 2007, with thousands of foreclosures making stability in the neighborhood difficult to maintain. Wanting to draw attention toward addressing the larger issue of lack of accountability from local banks, the organizations decided to target one house in the neighborhood that was a glaring representation of the type of disrepair and calamity that can befall a neglected building.
The house on Fairfield had been entered into the foreclosure process, walked away from by an owner that could no longer pay the inflated fees, resold, and, finally, abandoned. After more than a year of illicit inhabitation and shady activity, IMAN, JCUA, SWOP and community leaders and residents began making plans to reclaim the house on Fairfield. While awaiting a court decision on a possible transfer of ownership. community residents and particularly neighbors that live next to the house,decided to make a more definitive statement. The action on Fairfield was not only a celebration of collective power and neighborhood solidarity; it was also a shining representation of how a community, in the face of a grave situation, can act together to stand up for its rights and reclaim its neighborhood.
If all goes well with the case’s next court hearing on July 28, IMAN may well be able to receive permanent ownership of the building on Fairfield. Through our partnership with JCUA and SWOP, and most importantly, our collaboration with the leaders and residents on the 6200 south block of Fairfield, we hope to be able to create a positive community solution for one house ravaged by the foreclosure nightmare and to take a definitive step towards addressing the thousands of other homes, families, and communities that have been affected by this frightening reality.
Read JCUA’s Painting Hope on Chicago’s Southwest Side