Before the term “jobs/housing mismatch” and Barbara Ehrenreich's best-seller Nickel and Dimed brought the plight of minimum-wage workers into the limelight, Gail brought her organizing expertise to the residents of the Admiral Oasis, Fireside, and Suburban Motels in Morton Grove. Residents were alarmed to receive vacate notices during the cold days of December and appealed to Open Communities, then called the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs, to save their housing from the wrecking ball. These motels were home for over 200 households, many of whom worked at the motels themselves, Avon, Pace, and shopping centers nearby. Some were veterans, and some were married with children. In the late 1990s, Morton Grove declared these motels “blight” and turned the Waukegan Road corridor between Golf and Dempster into a TIF (tax increment financing) economic development district.
Open Communities, led by Gail Schechter, Board member Jean Cleland, and staff from Housing Action Illinois, helped organize the tenants who were eventually able to get time, funds and even – in the case of the Suburban – direct relocation help from the Village. The plight of the motel residents contributed to the passage of TIF reform in Springfield, mandating relocation whenever ten or more low-income families are to be displaced. The Suburban was the state’s first test case.