Logan Square neighbors raise money for single mother evicted from her apartment

LOGAN SQUARE – A local group is raising money to help one of their organizers and his family who are being evicted from their Logan Square apartment after battling with their landlord over poor conditions for more than six months.

Palenque LSNA, a longtime social justice organization serving Logan Square, Hermosa and Avondale, launched an online fundraiser last week to support Mozart Elementary parent mentor Blanca Beltran and her three children, ages 16, 15 and 6 years old.

Beltran’s family is being evicted from their four-year-old apartment – a $1,100-a-month three-bedroom unit on Dickens Avenue – following a months-long dispute with the building’s landlord.

Beltran said she had withheld rent since last fall because their landlord, Fernando Mendez, repeatedly refused to fix ongoing issues in the apartment, such as a bed bug infestation, leaks water and broken kitchen cabinets.

The deplorable conditions took a toll on the family. Beltran said they slept on the floor to avoid bedbugs and put up buckets to keep water out of the rest of the apartment during heavy rains.

Meanwhile, Beltran said Mendez frequently harassed his family, cutting off their gas and electricity. He even broke in once and unplugged their refrigerator, Beltran said. Beltran filed a police report for the burglary.

The unrest culminated when Mendez filed eviction papers with the courts, ordering the family to move out. Beltran received a final eviction notice earlier this month, according to letters from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

The Chicago ordinance states that tenants can withhold part of their rent — or even terminate a lease in severe cases — if a landlord fails to fix issues inside a unit. According to the order, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant who complains about living conditions.

Attempts to reach Mendez failed on Tuesday.

The Palenque LSNA fundraiser aims to help Beltran and his family get back on their feet after a tumultuous year.

As of Wednesday morning, the fundraiser had raised $1,555 towards its goal of $10,000. All money raised will be used to help the family move into a new apartment and buy new furniture, organizers said.

Palenque LSNA, formerly known as Logan Square Neighborhood Association, also pays movers and a storage unit.

“I know it’s not easy helping someone, especially someone you don’t know, but it’s something our community needs right now,” Beltran said in Spanish via l intermediary of a translator. “In Logan Square there is a lot of movement and we need a lot of help.”

As a parent mentor for Palenque LSNA, Beltran regularly teaches students at Mozart Elementary. Beltran is also a community navigator within the organization, helping to provide immigrants with information on knowing your rights.

Beltran herself emigrated from Mexico to Chicago in the mid-1990s. She is a domestic violence survivor who moved to Logan Square about 20 years ago. She works for the medical products distributor Fusion Medical as a saleswoman.

Beltran said it had been “very stressful” trying to find a new apartment in Logan Square, where housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

Palenque LSNA housing organizer Juanairis Castaneda said Beltran’s struggle is not unique to the gentrification of Logan Square.

“When you see such a strong-willed person going through a situation, it’s heartbreaking, especially knowing how much they’ve helped our community. It tugs at your heart,” Castaneda said. “It shows how badly the need for housing affordable is urgently needed in our community.”

Beltran said she knows of three other Mozart Elementary families who are also being kicked out of their homes.

“I hope that by telling my story, other people who are in the shadows can receive help,” she said in Spanish.

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