North Suburban Fair Housing Nonprofit Names Lawyer As New CEO

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EVANSTON, IL — A nonprofit advocating for affordable housing in Chicago’s north suburbs hired a new chief executive officer this month ahead of next year’s 50th anniversary of its founding.

Cheryl Lawrence, of Evanston, has been the executive director of the Chicago-based Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing for the past five years.

Lawrence also has business experience in the for-profit sector, having spent more than three years as the managing director of an Elk Grove Village-based tile company, according to an online resume.

Board President Carol Golder said that she and other members of the board looked forward to Lawrence being in charge of the organization.

“Her leadership and legal experience are exactly what we need at this time to continue to protect families from unfair housing practices, eviction, and foreclosure,” Golder said, announcing Lawrence was joining the Evanston-based nonprofit. “We know her passion will strengthen the organization and allow us to do even more housing justice and advocacy work.”

Lawrence succeeds Mary Ellen Ball, who left to go back to running her consulting and leadership coaching business.

“Over the last three years, we more than doubled our staff and broke a $1M budget for the first time in the agency’s history,” Ball said in a message before stepping down as CEO. “We grew to meet the overwhelming need of landlords and tenants to protect and promote fair housing throughout the North Shore and Northwestern Suburbs.”

Open Communities is the only agency approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, to provide housing counseling programs and fair housing testing in Chicago’s northern suburbs, according to representatives of the organization.

Demand for affordable housing and housing counseling is at an all-time high amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Open Communities has seen a record number of requests for service, according to nonprofit representatives, who expect that landlord-tenant mediation and rental and mortgage assistance requests to continue to grow in 2022.

Before starting work with the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, Lawrence received a law degree from the University of Illinois Chicago and was admitted to the Illinois state bar in 2008. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission records indicate she voluntarily deactivated her law license and is no longer authorized to practice law, as of this year.

“To live in housing free of discrimination is a human right. To live in a community where this is possible is transformative,” Lawrence said. “I am honored to be named the next CEO of Open Communities. I look forward to working with their dedicated team of advocates to continue the fight for housing in our communities to be accessible, equitable, and welcoming to all.”

Patch

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December 9, 2021 at 03:36PM

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