More than 30 churches, organizations join advocate program to help tenants with housing complaints

Janet Conover

Janet Conover, a member of the Safe and Livable Housing Committee, addresses the Quincy City Council on Monday night. | David Adam

QUINCY — The Safe and Livable Housing Committee introduced an advocate program it has been working on for the past year to the Quincy City Council at Monday’s meeting.

Committee member Janet Conover told aldermen 31 churches and organizations and one school have agreed to be an advocate supporter for tenants who need help in filling out a minimum housing complaint form, used when a tenant needs to file an official complaint with the city’s inspection department. 

The form helps detail needed repairs and lists possible violations in the rental dwelling or apartment. Each organization will have an advocate representative to meet with a tenant. 

The committee also has secured six organizations that wish to remain anonymous but will help families and children of tenants.

“If a tenant has repairs that need to be made and believes there are violations, he or she can go to an advocate organization and ask for help,” Conover said.

“One of the first things the advocate representative will ask the tenant is, ‘Have you contacted your landlord or property owner and asked for repairs to be made?’ If the tenant says no, the tenant will be advised to contact the landlord. If no repairs are made within a reasonable time period, then they can come back and discuss filling out the complaint form. We encourage dialogue between the landlord and tenants.”

Aldermen received a revised minimum housing complaint form. At the bottom of the form is a place for the name of the advocate organization, its address, phone number and email; and the name of the advocate representative who will meet with the tenant. On the back of the form is the list of common code violations that inspectors, landlords and tenants often use when determining requirements for a rental housing property. 

A second page of the form lists the 31 organizations. On the back of that page is information for tenants explaining how to fill out and file the form. The forms are in the City Hall lobby, the Quincy Public Library’s reference department, the city’s planning and inspection department and all 36 advocate organizations. An advocate representative can help deliver the form to the inspection department.

Committee member Carol Nichols said when a rental property is inspected, the advocate representative may accompany the tenant and be present for the inspection. If the inspection department finds violations, it sends to the landlord or owner listing what repairs need to be made within a determined period.

Packets with information were to be sent to the 36 organizations on Tuesday. Training sessions for advocates are set for 3 p.m. Jan. 18 in the Quincy Public Library and at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at Quincy Unitarian Church on the northwest corner of 16th and Hampshire.  

Committee member Father Joe Zimmerman said one reason the committee developed the advocate program is that many of the tenants who want to report a violation are afraid to do so for fear of retaliation.

“What kind of city are we living in when citizens fear retaliation for a legally accepted remedy?” he said. “The most common fears are being evicted and homeless.”

Zimmerman asked aldermen to help create a plan — including names, addresses and phone numbers for agencies to be called — to help homeless people who are evicted.

“We are continuing our efforts to help people living in substandard properties, particularly children who can be damaged for life,” he said. “We believe the (advocate) program has merit, and although it is not as effective as a rental housing ordinance, it’s one step toward effective help for tenants.”

Advocate List

  • Adams County Health Department
  • Addicts Victorious
  • Advocacy Network for Children
  • Blessed Sacrament Church
  • Christ Lutheran Church
  • Church of St. Peter, Mission Committee
  • Connect Child and Family Solutions
  • First Baptist Church
  • First Union Congregational Church
  • Horizons Soup Kitchen
  • Indivisible
  • Ladies of Charity
  • Luther Memorial Church
  • Lutheran Church of St. John
  • Safe and Livable Housing Committee
  • Salem United Church of Christ
  • Salvation Army
  • SIU School of Medicine
  • St. Anthony of Padua Church
  • St. Francis Church and food pantry
  • St. John’s Anglican Parish
  • Teen Reach/Bella Ease
  • The Crossing
  • Quanada
  • Quincy Catholic Charities
  • Quincy Housing Authority
  • Quincy Neighborhood Federation
  • Quincy Notre Dame High School
  • Vermont Street United Methodist Church
  • Unitarian Church
  • West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging

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