We'd like to introduce you to Rodney Dawkins. As the youngest of five, Rodney was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, in Bronzeville. He lived in the Uptown area for several years, then moved up to Skokie in 2021 and has lived there ever since.
Rodney has worked as a community health social worker at various Chicago organizations that serve the underprivileged. His background in affordable housing advocacy involves being a team leader for the Chicago Housing Initiative, Bring Chicago Home, and various other organizations and campaigns that focus on housing. He said that he became involved with affordable housing advocacy because there’s a lot of housing that has been lost due to things like gentrification.
Specifically in Uptown, Rodney has witnessed a lot of developers coming in and making units they claim to be affordable. However, he says “They just rely on some arbitrary percentage of AMI (area median income) to claim affordability.” New developments either kept emerging in the area or old hotels were being flipped into high-end condos, yet tent cities and homeless people in the streets remained without any assistance. He predicts that the tent cities in this part of the city will eventually have to move out of the area if these trends persist. Rodney said that housing needs to be subsidized in order to actually be affordable to most, which doesn’t happen often.
As someone who was formerly homeless and, in 2019, stayed at Connections for the Homeless’s shelter known as “Hilda’s Place,” Rodney became a Joining Forces member in early 2022 after he was asked to speak at a meeting of people experiencing homelessness, since he could speak from experience. When asked what interests him about affordable housing advocacy, he stated that housing is a human right. Rodney followed this up by stating that there should be no US citizen without a place to live, because housing protects people from things like the weather and ultimately increases their health and well-being.
Since Rodney is such a passionate speaker who can speak from experience, most of the advocacy he has done has involved speaking up about affordable housing. Most recently, he spoke at Evanston’s Land Use Commission meeting that was about getting approval for the Connections’ application for a special use permit to operate a shelter in the Margarita Inn. Before that, Rodney had spoken at various Chicago City Hall rallies and was even on a podcast for the Chicago Housing Initiative. According to him, the two best things to do about affordable housing in Evanston are 1) getting everyone to do their civic duties of voting, calling representatives, signing petitions, and supporting their residents, as well as 2) holding officials in office accountable and ensuring that they are informed about the need for affordable housing in this community.