‘Thank You for Making Mayfair Commons a Priority for JCUA’

September 18, 2014
Mayfair Commons

A pre-development loan of $100,000 from JCUA’s Community Ventures Program will help support the redevelopment of Mayfair Commons in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago.

By Judy Levey
JCUA Executive Director

“Preserving housing stock.” It’s a phrase that sounds official and impersonal. Occasionally, though, we are reminded that there are human stories behind the bureaucratic language.

After reading our recent update on JCUA’s financial involvement in a redevelopment project, Rev. C. J. Hawking, executive director of Arise Chicago, sent me this note:

Judy,

I am writing to thank JCUA for your support of the Mayfair Commons [a 97-unit senior citizen residence at 4444 W. Lawrence in Chicago].

Back in 1997, I was the pastor of Mayfair United Methodist Church and our church leader, Jean Chapman, who had worked hard all of her life, did not have a decent home to which she could retire. Jean was an amazing, dynamic leader and I admired her very much.

Rev. C.J. Hawking, Arise Chicago

Rev. C.J. Hawking, Arise Chicago

When the Mayfair Commons opened, we were all so excited. I wrote a letter of recommendation for Jean and met with the managers. She was the perfect candidate for them and they soon discovered that to be the case.

Jean moved in and a large number of us went there to celebrate with her! It was a perfect place for her and she so deserved to live in such a nice place. I visited her there many more times and I just loved the place! We need 300 more like them in the city.

A few years later Jean died of a sudden heart attack. I think about her a lot and what a special woman she was to me and so many others.

I am so grateful that she had Mayfair Commons as her home base.

So, thank you for stepping up and making Mayfair Commons a priority for JCUA. I am so very moved that you would help folks there feeling cared for and safe.

Be well, CJ


JCUA September Newsletter

September 10, 2014

In the September issue of the JCUA newsletter…

  • Cantors to sing for expanded trauma care.
  • JCUA invests in senior citizen housing.
  • Membership meetings build toward selection of issues.
  • JCUA stands with the striking employees of Golan’s moving.
  • Nate Seeskin joins JCUA as AVODAH organizing fellow.

Read it now!


JCUA August Newsletter

August 12, 2014
JCUA's latest newsletter is now online here.

JCUA’s latest newsletter is now online here.

In the August issue of the JCUA newsletter…

  • Mimi Harris makes the news
  • JCUA members focus on leadership…and change
  • Deborah Goldberg to lead Or Tzedek
  • Rebecca Katz reflects on three years as JCUA’s director of teen programs
  • JCUA supports affordable housing in Albany Park
  • Vigil and coffeeshop discussion at Broadview

Read it now!


Community Development Projects Supported by JCUA Receive Driehaus Foundation Awards

February 28, 2014

By Judy Levey
JCUA Executive Director

At an event known as the Oscars of community development in Chicago, two projects supported by JCUA won awards last week.

It was the 20th anniversary of the annual Community and Neighborhood Development Awards. Ten projects received awards acknowledging significant real estate developments, architecture, community organizing and individual achievements in a variety of areas. 

Two of the projects were supported, in part, by zero-interest loans from JCUA’s Community Ventures Program. Landon Bone Baker Architects was the award-winning firm in both cases. Both of these projects won Richard H. Driehaus Foundation awards for architectural excellence.  

Gracie’s Café

Last year, JCUA assisted St. Leonard’s Ministries on the start-up of Gracie’s Café, a component of Harvest Commons which provides job training to formerly incarcerated people living in the building.  The café, located at 1517 W. Warren Blvd., is now operating and adds to the vibrancy of the development and neighborhood.

Read the rest of this entry »


Gracie’s Cafe: Building Community One Cup At A Time

December 3, 2013

Gracie’s Café is the latest project of JCUA’s Community Ventures Program, which provides zero-interest loan for community development projects.  A long time coming, St. Leonard’s Ministries was able to open the doors of Gracie’s Café in September 2013 with a final push from a CVP economic development loan of $50,000. 

by Beth Filipiak
Organizing and Community Development Intern, JCUA

Gracies Cafe MenuChicagoans can certainly have their choice among coffee shops and cafés, but a few months ago in the Near West Side, a new café opened that is worth much more than a passing glance before heading onto something more familiar.  You won’t regret it.

Gracie’s Café is the latest venture of St. Leonard’s Ministry (SLM), an organization with almost 60 years’ experience of providing comprehensive residential, case management and employment development services for formerly incarcerated men and women.

Gracies Cafe from Chicago Gazette article Robert Dougherty Mike Ellert LaTonya Carter and Walter Boyd

Left to right: Bob Dougherty (from SLM), Mike Ellert (cafe manager), LaTonya Carter (cafe staff) and Walter Boyd (SLM director).

Each year, approximately 250-275 formerly incarcerated individuals reside in SLM’s four housing programs:  St. Leonard’s House, Grace House, St. Andrew’s Court and the Harvest Commons Residence, which opened late this summer in partnership with Heartland Alliance and is located in what was formerly known as the Viceroy Hotel.

Gracie’s Café, brightly lit and eco-friendly, is located on the ground floor next to the Harvest Commons garden.  In the summer there is patio seating and in the winter, friends can gather together inside and enjoy delicious year round Intelligentsia coffee and other warm beverages, light freshly prepared breakfast and lunch dishes, as well as Bridgeport Bakery pastries like apple squares and their season pumpkin bars.

The cafe staff

The cafe staff

Along with the great food and drink, customers can enjoy the warm feeling of knowing that they are supporting a great training program.

Gracie’s Café is staffed with graduates of SLM’s Culinary Skills program, which is run by its Employment Center.  As graduates of the training program, Gracie’s Cafe staff now receives valuable work experience and has the opportunity to meet with a job counselor to help them further their careers.

After training and working at Gracie’s Cafe, SLM’s goal is to move employees to stable, permanent jobs in communities and bring on new graduates to help them do the same.

As much more than a café, Gracie’s is definitely worth stopping by. Grab a cup of coffee, a bite to eat or ask about their catering options.  They are also a great venue for smaller meetings, gatherings and just a great atmosphere.

Gracie’s Cafe in the Media:

Check out their recent feature in Gazette Chicago, and watch for more information on when they will be featured in Chicago’s own 30 Good Minutes, by the Sunday Evening Club on PBS.

Cafe Info:

  • 1519 W. Warren Blvd (plenty of street parking available!)
  • M-F: 7am – 2pm; S: 8am – 2pm
  • 312.492.8800
  • Visit and Like them on Facebook

Community Development that Transforms Houses into Homes

August 27, 2013

by Beth Filipiak
JCUA Intern, Community Development

What really makes a house a home? Is it the flooring, or the façade? The paint colors or the appliances? Or rather is it the opportunity to actually call a place your own – a place for you and your family to live, to grow and to engage the community? To build that community spirit and connection, to know that this house, and the community, are yours.

Ownership is important, and that is the philosophy guiding the Breaking Ground organization as they continue to rehabilitate houses in neighborhoods like North Lawndale, Hermosa and Austin. They then sell them at below market rates, assist buyers in receiving additional government subsidies, and provide a one year guarantee on all of their construction work.

They see their work as part of a long term strategy of not only building homes, but also of building lives and the communities around them. Because of the care and dedication they put forward in their work, many of the homeowners maintain their relationship with Breaking Ground, knowing that this organization is also part of their community.

Taking a recent tour of the project were (photo at upper left) Ralph Brown, Kaitlyn Wiedeman, David Midgely, Roberta Nechin, Josh DeGraff, Zachary Braun and Judy Levey. Wiedeman and DeGraff are with Breaking Ground. Brown, Midgely, Nechin and Braun are JCUA leaders. Levey is JCUA's executive director.

Taking a recent tour of the project were (photo at upper left) Ralph Brown, Kaitlyn Wiedeman, David Midgely, Roberta Nechin, Josh DeGraff, Zachary Braun and Judy Levey. Wiedeman and DeGraff are with Breaking Ground. Brown, Midgely, Nechin and Braun are JCUA leaders. Levey is JCUA’s executive director.

As a 2010 recipient of a zero-interest loan from JCUA’s Community Ventures Program, Breaking Ground is part of the JCUA community. Hence, members of the Community Ventures Program Advisory Committee went to the North Lawndale community to see the results of their dedication first hand.

The committee learned that this particular grey stone house was scheduled for demolition before Breaking Ground was able to take over. It had been vacant, unsecured, and needed major infrastructure updates.

Now, the original hardwood floors have been beautifully rehabbed, the walls painted, the bathroom tiled, the kitchen cabinets and counters redone and all major systems are more than up to code. Standing there in the house, it was difficult to imagine that it had ever been considered for demolition. Yet without Breaking Ground, it would have most likely been a vacant lot. Instead, the Breaking Ground staff are putting the finishing touches into a future home for a family that would not have been able to live there otherwise, and the neighborhood will have another family with a place to call home.

Home ownership is a dream for too many people. There are too many people in Chicago who need a place to live. As of January 2013, the Chicago Housing Authority had a wait list with more than 85,000 people, while they still have over 2,000 empty (“offline”) units. A July 2013 study estimated that 116,042 Chicagoans were homeless in the 2012-2013 school year, a 10% increase from the previous year.

Affordable housing continues to be a great need, and may seem overwhelming at times, yet JCUA continues to work toward a more affordable Chicago. To learn more about JCUA’s Community Ventures Program, click here.


Chicago’s Affordable Housing Crisis And What We Are Doing About It

July 11, 2013

by Beth Filipiak
Community Development Intern, JCUA

In Chicago, your bank teller may not have the basic financial means to afford “affordable housing” without being considered “cost burdened.” To be “cost burdened” is when more than 30% of your income goes to basic housing costs.

Chicago’s Affordable Housing Crisis

affordable housingWith the average price of a one bedroom rental unit in Chicago being approximately $850, a person needs an annual salary of $34,000 to afford such an apartment.  Yet a bank teller does not typically make that much. Neither do many public school bus drivers, nursing aids, receptionists or security guards.

This also almost guarantees that these same professionals would not be able to afford a mortgage of a home priced at $150,000 without being cost burdened (see more statistics here). Hence, Chicago lacks truly affordable housing options for many workers and the unemployed.

However, too many apartments remain vacant: some are caught up in Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) ‘limbo’ where they are not being lived in, or are being torn down, as CHA figures out their “Plan Forward.

Some units have out priced their neighborhood. Others are uninhabitable, though, incredibly, the US Census 2011 American Community Survey reports that there are still a few occupied units in Chicago without complete plumbing, kitchens or available phone service.

Even owning your own home has not meant that you have been unscathed by the recent housing crisis.  Most likely you know someone who is struggling with mortgage payments (as of 2010, almost 50% of homeowners were).

What We Are Doing About It

There is no doubt that things need to change for the better.  At JCUA we strongly believe in the positive ripples that stable housing provides; for individuals, families and communities.  This is why for over the past twenty years, JCUA’s Community Ventures Program has provided almost $4.5 million in seed funding to create or rehab over 3,600 units of affordable housing.

This is why we continue to look for partners with a commitment to restoring and maintaining human dignity by offering truly affordable, safe and secure housing.  For more information about our Community Ventures Program, visit our website.



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