Watch this Page for Sweet Home 2021 Honorees

Doug Dobmeyer

Doug Dobmeyer has a lifetime of achievement and commitments to social justice causes that is almost unparalleled in Chicago, with the roots of his activism firmly planted in the Uptown Community. 

From 1979-1986 he was an active member, board of director(s) and past President of Voice of the People in Uptown.  During his tenure as President, Voice was busy with acquiring, managing and developing affordable housing properties, but also was taking big risks doing “receivership management” of some of the community’s most problematic properties.

One of these was the dilapidated Moreland (SRO) Hotel.  Doug along with Voice’s staff and leadership helped form a special non-profit focusing on such developments, called the Lakefront SRO Corporation.  Doug went on to be its founding President. The impact of what happened thereafter cannot be overstated. 

Lakefront SRO, now called Mercy Housing Lakefront, saved a number of buildings in Uptown and Chicago’s Northside, and “pioneered blended management” – a strategy where social service and property management staff work in coordination with each other to support residents well-being and empowerment.  Their work soon became a national standard that applied to persons at-risk of homelessness and with special health and other needs. This emphasis is relevant today for the kind of services Voice wants to extend to ALL subsidized low-income tenants and their families.

Of course, Doug was never satisfied with just one issue or focus of his activities.  On the heels of organizing for affordable housing at Presidential Towers Development, a new public-private program was formed to provide alternative landlord and tenant-friendly rent subsidies benefitting Chicago’s lowest income residents.  Doug was founder and leader of the Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund from 1986 to 2012, an organization that continues as a model for others seeking to efficiently house people of modest means.

Known for his feisty personality, with unwavering commitment to people in need, Doug remained active in politics, media consulting and issue advocacy, even serving in staff and executive roles with various non-profits and institutions. This included work directing the REST shelters in Uptown for homeless men and women and the The Center for Street People, Housing Options for the Mentally Ill, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Illinois’ Common Cause, Loyola’s Center for Urban Research & Learning, the Public Welfare Coalition, the Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Access Living Board and the Task Force Against Chicago Casinos.

Doug has been recognized by various groups for his volunteer and career achievements, but Voice of the People in Uptown considers him one of its own.

Yittayih Zelalem

Lawyer and developer, public policy research specialist and advocate, executive director and urban planner, author and trainer… these are among the roles of Renaissance man, friend of affordable housing, and Voice of the People staff alum – Yittayih Zelalem.

Since 1996, Yittayih has been a researcher and Co-Director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Development at the University of Illinois College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA). 

The Voorhees Center has been long known as one of the user-friendly university shops in Chicago, where community-based organizations, government officials, and large institutions come to advance socially responsible missions — armed with actionable research.

During his time at Voorhees, Yittayih played a lead role in research and investigations on various topics, including: housing choice voucher policies and Cabrini Green development plans; housing condition reports and “early warning systems”; as well as reports on the prospects for success of housing cooperatives in Chicago.  Yittayih oversaw market research in communities like Humboldt Park and North Lawndale, and supported housing planning efforts of suburban villages, including Winnetka and Highland Park.

Yittayih has always been grounded with an ethos of social justice and equitable development, whether it was promoting agricultural development in Ethiopia, human rights at Yale, or teaching at UIC’s Masters in Urban Planning Program.

In Uptown between 1988-95, he brought African and Asian groups together to construct the Voice-sponsored “International Homes” and, as Voice’s Director of Development, Yittayih facilitated acquisition and development of affordable housing.  This included the transfer to resident control of the 500-unit “LakeView Towers”, a low-income development at risk of sale to the highest bidder and displacement of working class and low-income tenants. Lakeview Towers continues to this day as a model of excellent property management in Uptown.

Yittayih honed his skills learned in Uptown with the Near West Side CDC and the Chicago Rehab Network (CRN), where he continues his long association as a faculty trainer for CRN’s Community Development and Empowerment Series, formerly known as the Housing Development Training Institute.

Larry Pusateri

Larry Pusateri is widely considered one of the Midwest’s best affordable housing finance consultants, enabling rehab, preservation, and new construction of leased homes. Thousands have benefitted – from low-income families to residents of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels; from housing for the formerly homeless, including veterans, to persons with health and disability challenges. 

This work began in 1999 in Uptown at Lakefront SRO Corporation (now Mercy Housing Lakefront).This innovative non-profit organization was in part spawned by Voice of the People’s efforts to seize management and control of “problem” properties for rehab and preservation of affordable housing in Uptown.

The organization pioneered “blended management” programming (now commonly referred to as supportive housing), and Larry played a lead role in saving and rehabilitating developments in the community of Uptown. He later served as the first Director of Housing Services at Traveler’s & Immigrant Aid’s Century Place Development, now known as Heartland Housing, where he continued his affordable housing preservation efforts in Uptown.[1] Subsequently he formed Pusateri Development, a closely held affordable consulting company of his own. 

Since about 2008, Larry has served as Vice-President of highly regarded affordable development and consulting firms: Daveri Development Group, Verigreen Development, LLC, and Lighten Gale Group.  Larry is a certified mediator, a skill set that has been useful when bringing together multiple sponsors, lenders, funders, and investors in affordable housing.

However, in the true spirit of Uptown advocacy, Larry never forgot his roots, first as a Vista Volunteer and community organizer on the Westside, and later as the Executive Director of Housing Action Illinois, formerly known as the Statewide Housing Action Coalition (SHAC).  SHAC’s development was a landmark effort, growing a statewide coalition that built the capacity of non-profit housing groups and tenant organizations that changed public policy and that enabled statewide funding for community development.

[1] Larry assembled funding and financing of almost 600 units  of affordable housing in Uptown at The Malden Apartments, The Miriam Apartments, San Miguel Apartments, 4848 Winthrop Tower and Ruth Shriman House.