Local housing activists honored for community work

Angela Hurlock worries about the kids in her neighborhood of South Chicago.

"I grew up feeling safe. Kids today don't feel safe," says Hurlock. "They don't feel safe going to school. They're looking over their shoulder, worried about whether or not they might get shot."

That concern for her community prompted Hurlock to get involved with building safe, affordable housing in her neighborhood. Now she's being recognized by a city nonprofit for her work in South Chicago.

Nine local heroes were honored yesterday at the annual Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago awards ceremony. Like Hurlock, each one was lauded for efforts to bring their community together around important issues.

Hurlock moved to South Chicago in 2004 when she was hired by Claretian Associates, a nonprofit community development association started by priests in the neighborhood in the 1970s. Since then, Hurlock hasn't just worked in South Chicago. She's gotten involved in almost every aspect of the community, from her neighborhood block club to the board of the local YMCA.

"Our community is so important to us," she says. "Apathy is not an option."

Recently, Hurlock and Claretian completed two single-family homes and two two-flat buildings to boost affordable housing in the neighborhood. To help keep costs down for families, the homes were built with "green" amenities like solar panels and carpet made from recycled ketchup bottles.

The recent economic crisis has been tough on her neighborhood, Hurlock says, with many people losing their jobs. But she says she's never considered leaving the city for the suburbs, even though that's how most young professionals operate these days.

"I'm a city girl, through and through," she says. "I say, 'Let's stay in the city and help the city to be better.'"

Rising above panic in these difficult economic times is rare, says Michael van Zaligen, director of homeownership services for NHS.

"They say that the financial situation now is worse than the Great Depression because people don't stick together anymore," says van Zaligen. "These people help their communities stick together."

All of the heroes were honored for their commitment to the community, from helping people learn how to budget and avoid foreclosure, to repairing the relationship between citizens and their local police department. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair was also honored for her national efforts to fight the foreclosure crisis.

Tough economic circumstances often cause people to only think about themselves, says van Zaligen.These heroes are showing their communities that solutions can be found when they work together.

"Everybody's panicked. Everybodies worried about what will happen," says van Zaligen. "but they're still taking the time to think about others."

Also honored were:

  • Gerald Goodlow, for work in Auburn Gresham/Englewood
  • Maria Alonso, for work in Back of the Yards/Garfield Boulevard
  • Father Stan Rataj, for work in Chicago Lawn/Gage Park
  • Velma Johnson, for work in North Lawndale
  • Diahann Sinclair, for work in Roseland
  • Pastor Johnny L. Miller, for work in West Humboldt Park
  • New Birth Church Block Club Network, for work in West Englewood
  • Marcy Kogut, for work in the Fox Valley

Staff Writer Megan Cottrell covers public housing for the Daily News. She can be reached at 773-362-5002, ext. 12, or megan [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.