Chicago Lawn and Gage Park are multi-ethnic working class communities located on the southwest side of Chicago. Historically, Chicago Lawn has been a European-immigrant community, predominantly Lithuanian, German, Polish and Irish. During the late 80’s and early 90’s, as the Anglo population aged, the neighborhood transitioned from primarily white to black and Latino. Many longtime residents moved away and those that stayed felt a sense of loss and resentment. In 1996, NHS opened its Chicago Lawn/Gage Park Office and joined the efforts of neighborhood institutions to combat predatory lending, educate homeowners and get banks to reinvest in the community. These efforts have helped the community adjust to the rapid neighborhood change without losing significant housing stock. Residents of Chicago Lawn/Gage Park are determined to stop the downward spiral of disinvestment and urban decay and create an attractive, safe and inviting place to live for families from many backgrounds.
NHS is a member institution of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), a collaboration of organizations working together to improve the Chicago Lawn/Gage Park community. SWOP is an institutionally based community organization, where the members of affiliate institutions are participants in the organization’s collective actions. This creates a situation where housing issues are dealt with by the whole community. Working collaboratively, institutions such as Greater Southwest Development Corporation (GSDC) and the Inner City Muslim Action Network have been instrumental partners in bridging the racial divide through relationship-building, housing accessibility and economic development. Our partnership with SWOP allows NHS to reach many more community homeowners and connects NHS to other issues affecting the neighborhood, such as crime and safety, education, job development, predatory lending and immigration.