It was vacant and vandalized, marked with an X for demolition. The tipping point occurred when a young girl was sexually assaulted in the gangway.
"It was a symbol of really what was problematic with these properties across this community," said Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network. "Literally you could’ve walked into it at anytime. There was not only drug dealing going on, there was prostitution. Literally the neighbors had to change, then alter their schedules because they were just terrified about what was going on in this building."
That galvanized the community made up of neighbors, priests, imams, and rabbis. For them, the building could no longer remain empty.
IMAN, a social justice nonprofit on 63rd Street went to court and received the home for free from the city. The two flat was then retrofitted and rehabbed by formerly incarcerated men and gives them a place to live.
It’s called the Green ReEntry program.
IMAN’s turning vacant homes into environmentally-friendly dwellings with help from the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs and the Southwest Organizing Project.
The green component includes eco-friendly insulation, preserving rain runoff with buckets and installing ultra-efficient appliances. In the backyard vibrant swiss chard marks a vegetable garden.
Now, the building’s basement will be a community space for block club meetings or other social gatherings. Two families rent apartments in the rehabbed building for below market rate. The goal is to transition them into home ownership.
It’s a rare bright spot in a neighborhood rocked by foreclosures. According to the Woodstock Institute think tank, the rate of long-term vacancy in Chicago Lawn is nearly twice as high as the rest of Chicago.