Evanston’s new reparations fund has received 146 applications and $26,230 in donations, according to Deputy City Manager Kimberly Richardson. 

Richardson released the figures at a meeting last week of the City Council’s Reparations Committee.  

Information on who and how many have donated is not currently available, but will be at the next meeting.

Richardson also informed the committee that 29 out of 107 applicants were considered “ancestors,” or Black residents who lived in the City between 1919 and 1969 (the figures were current as of Sept. 30). This subgroup of individuals, so far, is most interested in home improvement and mortgage assistance.

The largest applicant pool is made  up of “direct descendants,” and Richardson believes that trend will continue. 

“What we’ve come to realize is that more people want to provide more documentation than they need,” Richardson said about her experience helping residents apply. 

The Reparations committee has a partnership with the Evanston Public Library to assist residents with locating application documents, and the partnership has been successful. Richardson said that when people come to her office during office hours, she is able to contact the library to find missing documents, allowing her and applicants  to complete the form on site. “We have a good rhythm.”

After the update, the committee complimented Ms. Richardson on how successfully she has educated the community about this program during her information sessions earlier in the fall.

“This is complicated and you’ve made it seem simple,” Committee member Bonnie Lockhart said. “I think you have brought down a lot of barriers, and that is not an easy thing to do.”

Applicant selection process

As stated in the restorative housing application, ancestors will be prioritized as recipients, followed by direct descendants and a third tier applicants, people who can prove housing discrimination by the City after 1969. 

The City has allocated $400,000 for the first round of applicants, and 16 recipients will be selected. Even though funds for only 16 people are available now, the committee plans to inform City Council of the number of people who who have qualified for the program, to make sure funding is available for the next 16 applicants, and potentially, more after that. Still, the full $10 million of funding that is expected isn’t immediately on hand. 

Since ancestors will be prioritized, the committee will randomly select from that group  for the first few rounds of grants, until the list is exhausted, then will move to tier 2, “direct descendants” and tier 3. 

“We’re now in the process of how we’re going to distribute funds beyond the 16 as it comes available,” Richardson says.

Important upcoming dates

The committee is intentional about having an “aggressively quick” timeline, said committee chair Peter Braithwaite, so that it can begin distributing funds as soon as possible for this first program. On Nov. 11 the committee will meet to approve the applications. On Nov. 22 the approved applications will be sent to the Council. On Nov. 30, the applications will be officially selected.

The Reparations Committee was created on Nov. 9, 2020, and is tasked with working with City residents and experts to “explore and identify programs and opportunities to be supported by the Reparations fund,” as defined on the City website. 

The Committee meets on the first Thursday of each month at 9 a.m. and meets again on Nov. 4. Its membership is split between aldermen and citizens.

Debbie-Marie Brown

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at dmb@evanstonroundtable.com...