The Southwest Organizing Project has led the Reclaiming Southwest Chicago Campaign since 2012, playing key roles in identifying vacant properties, assisting families in housing plans and referring individuals to organizations for homebuyer classes. The transformative nature of this program has seen a decrease in vacant properties from 700 to 300 between 2012 and 2019 as well as a decrease from 93 (2012) to 8 (2019) vacant properties in the initial 20-block target area. This campaign aims to rehab vacant properties then rent or sell them back to community members at an affordable price, allowing them to build wealth within the neighborhood.
The work is ongoing as SWOP staff and volunteers rose early, August 12th, 2023, to clean out one of the Reclaiming Campaign single family homes. This cleaning project was headed by SWOP organizers, Dantay Williams and Harry Meyer. Dantay, who is new to SWOP’s housing work has been assisting with the Reclaiming Campaign for 6 months, stating that, “It feels refreshing picking up a different kind of work that allows me to learn so much in such a short amount of time. I enjoyed taking on this new role and I feel like I’m learning a new skill set with every step.” Dantay’s experience in organizing helped him in putting together a plan and people to take this on.
There are more properties in the pipeline that SWOP owns that will be rehabbed and even more that SWOP is making strides to purchase to continue this great work. Dantay mentioned an initiative he is proud of to create a cohort of young people that are interested in being future homebuyers that is coming soon. SWOP encourages anyone who is interested in becoming a first-time homeowner to reach out to their organizers Harry Meyer or Dantay Williams to learn more and keep a close eye on their website for updates on the next steps in creating a more equitable southwest Chicago.