Open House

“Housing is a human right,” said activist Sabrina Morey last Thursday evening. Morey was one of the many Chicago activists at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum that night who spoke about housing and other domestic issues, all in recognition of the release of AREA Chicago’s thirteenth issue, “Home Fronts, Housing Struggles.” When Morey, a single mother, could no longer afford to pay rent for her and her two daughters, the family risked legal consequences by packing their bags and moving into a vacant, foreclosed home in the North Side neighborhood of Belmont Cragin. Since then, Morey has become an activist against foreclosure and eviction procedures, and has worked to move homeless people into vacant, foreclosed homes across the city. An article in AREA 13 features her story alongside the testaments of many Chicago residents who have faced similar problems with eviction and foreclosure.

On Thursday, alongside a spread of empanadas, stuffed grape leaves, and pita bread, contributors and other Chicago activists–including college students, seniors, and everyone in between–gathered at Hull House to discuss the issues at the heart of AREA’s latest release. Since the magazine’s founding in 2005, each issue of AREA has been dedicated to studying a specific topic of social justice in Chicago. Moving from the broad issue of housing, this volume’s topics included the rights of domestic workers, gentrification and the Chicago Housing Authority, home economics, co-operative living, and foreclosure and eviction.

Speeches given by the magazine’s contributors were often moving and sometimes downright radical. Morey’s two daughters, Destiny and Keosha, spoke honestly about the hardships they faced living with a single mother who could rarely spend time with them until she moved them into a vacant home, and single parents Jennie Rudderham and Jasson Perez voiced the benefits of raising their children in the non-traditional setting of a co-op.

Heather Radke, a radio producer and the exhibition coordinator at Hull House, spoke about her exhibit “Unfinished Business: 21st Century Home Economics”, which traces the origins of home economics from its origins in the Progressive Era to the present day. After arguing that often-marginalized domestic workers should be given more recognition for the important social value of their work, Radke gave the floor to three domestic workers from Chicago who spoke about the need for a domestic workers’ bill of rights in Illinois. Lisa, a warm and loquacious woman who has been a caregiver in Chicago for over twenty-one years, said, “I love what I do and I love my seniors. But there are a lot of domestic workers who are physically, mentally, and sexually abused. We deserve to have some rights, and I am grateful that I get to be a voice for my sisters.” Throughout the event, but especially with these women, the progressive spirit in which Jane Addams created Hull House in 1889 felt alive and well.