Meet Our Team

The Northwest Side Housing Center (NWSHC) is proud to have a dedicated team of caring individuals who live by the mission to ENGAGE, EDUCATE and EMPOWER the community and fulfill the NWSHC core values.

Board of Directors

President: Steve Cleary
Vice President: Maureen Lopez Fitzpatrick
Secretary: Patricia H. Gill
Treasurer: Alex Fraher

Tom Bugielski
Elsa Chavez
Laura Sayen
Carlos Guevara
Hilda Olivero
Francisco Ramirez
Sandra Stumme
Steve Larosiliere

James Rudyk, Executive Director

James Rudyk, Executive Director

James joined the Northwest Side Housing Center as Executive Director in May 2012. James came to the NWSHC with over four years of experience in the non-profit housing sector. James was previously the Director of Community Organizing for ESOP (Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People), an Ohio based non-profit community organizing and housing counseling agency. A native Clevelander, James is a graduate with honors from John Carroll University with a BA in Race and Identity Studies and a minor in Political Philosophy. James also holds his Masters in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University, writing his thesis on the influence of race, socioeconomic status, and parental involvement on children’s educational attainment.

During James’ tenure at NWSHC he has focused on expanding and deepening the NWSHC’s organizing efforts as well as adding additional programs and services to better serve the community. Since 2012, James has led the growth of the NWSHC from a team of eight to 27 and increased NWSHC’s annual operating budget by over 300 percent. In 2017, James was elected to the National Council of La Raza’s Affiliate Council representing the Midwest affiliates nationally. James’ also serves on Ocwen Financial Corporation’s Community Advisory Council, Nationstar Mortgage’s Community Advisory Group, and 5/3 Bank’s Community Advisory Board. James is a graduate of the Latino Policy Forum’s Leadership Academy as well as an inaugural fellow in the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy. In James’ free time he coaches and plays soccer, is an avid crossfitter, and enjoys reading, cooking paleo, and traveling. James currently lives in Uptown.

Email James at

Sean Washington, Director of Operations

Sean joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in 2013 and is responsible for all of the programmatic reporting, compliance, and auditing for the NWSHC. He also assists with staff management, development, and organizational meetings. Before joining the NWSHC, Sean served at various non-profit and foreclosure prevention agencies including ACORN Housing, Affordable Housing Centers of America, and Illinois Housing Development Authority. At each organization Sean held a leadership role in some capacity, and brings his experience in management and leadership to the NWSHC. Sean double majored in Psychology and Human Services during his studies at Upper Iowa University. Sean currently resides in Forest Park with his spouse and new baby girl, Corinne. They were married on Sweetest Day, October 20th, 2012. Sean enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, along with playing and watching sports.

Email Sean at

Maria Rivera-Ortiz, Office Coordinator (English/Spanish)

Maria Rivera Ortiz joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in 2013. She is the first person to greet people when they call or visit the NWSHC. Maria was a Parent Mentor Coordinator for Reinberg Elementary School when the NWSHC launched the program in 2013. Prior to joining the NWSHC, Maria worked as the School Community Representative at Monroe Elementary for 24 years. Maria was born in Ciales, Puerto Rico but raised in Waukegan, IL since the age of one. She returned to Puerto Rico where she attended Juan Rios Serpa H.S and American Jr. College. Maria has lived in Logan Square for the past 33 years and she has a son that has two boys and a daughter that has a girl. In her spare time Maria loves to cook, bake and make crafts.

Email Maria at

Julio Rodriguez, Director of Community Development (English/Spanish)

Julio Rodriguez, a Chicago native, is facilitating the NWSHC’s Economic Development and Housing goals from the Belmont Cragin Quality of Life Plan (QLP). In his role, Julio will help support local businesses and bring new businesses to the Belmont Cragin corridor. In addition, he will support the housing goals laid out in the QLP, such as affordable housing, implementing homeowner grant programs, and down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers. Julio recently completed an MPA from Baruch College through the National Urban Fellows program. His background is in housing and education; he served as a program director for NWSHC’s housing and financial education services, a loan officer for Neighborhoold Lending Services, and as an tutor with City Year Chicago. Julio resides on the Northwest side of Chicago with his wife and his mixed terrier.

Linda Peters, Director of Development

Linda joined the Northwest Side Housing Center as Director of Fund Development in December 2016. Linda comes to the NWSHC with over 15 years of experience in the non-profit sector, both in Chicago and in Providence, Rhode Island. Linda served as a fundraising and public relations consultant for BCOG Community Development, Inc.; Central Falls High School; and for Barrington Christian Academy, all in Rhode Island. While in RI, she also worked as a Community Organizer for the RI Council for Community Mental Health Organizations and served on the Board of the RI Mental Health Consumers Association. She worked in fundraising and development at Chicago Youth Programs and Ballet Chicago, and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). A native Chicagoan, Linda is a graduate of Brown University with a BA in British and American Literature. Linda also holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Providence College, where she also completed the Teacher Certification Program.

In Linda’s free time she is a freelance writer, poet, and serves as a music minister at her church in Woodlawn, singing with the praise team. Linda enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, and volunteering as a fundraising consultant to local nonprofits working in the arts, underserved youth, and mental health. She currently lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

Email Linda at

Laura Slabaugh, Programs and Development Specialist

Laura earned her B.A in Political Science from Indiana University in May 2017 and joined the NWSHC staff as an Americorps VISTA in June. As a VISTA, her focus is in capacity building for the NWSHC. This entails working in development and funding to ensure the sustainability of programs, as well as marketing and communications to share the story of the NWSCH with our community. Laura enjoys long distance running, breakfast foods, and traveling.

Email Laura at

Esteban Rodriguez, Director of Programs (English/Spanish)

Esteban Rodriguez joined the Northwest Side Housing Center as Director of Programs in August of 2016. With nearly 10 years of experience working in the public sector, Esteban has devoted his career in community development that has led him working in the fields of Health, Education, Safety, Criminal Justice and now Housing.

With a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), a Master’s in Public Administration through the National Urban Fellow Program (NUF) in New York City along with his experiences he has developed through-out the various fields, Esteban has honed in his skills that will ENGAGE, EDUCATE and EMPOWER the Northwest Side Housing Center and the individuals we serve.

Esteban’s free time is devoted to his loved ones. He is a motorcycle enthusiast, an intermediate Latin-dancer, a sports fanatic, a tech-junkie, and an aspiring traveler.

Email Esteban at:

Kati Wiese, Rental Counselor

Kati joined the NWSHC as an AmeriCorps VISTA in November 2016, and is now the NWSHC’s rental counselor. She graduated from DePaul University in 2016 with a B.A. in International Studies and a concentration on the sources of social, economic and political inequality. She was born and raised in the west Chicagoland suburbs, and now lives in Logan Square. She thrives on coffee and trying new great food, loves to read and spends as much time traveling as possible.

Email Kati at

Leticia ‘Lety’ Covarrubias, Program Intake Specialist (English/Spanish)

Lety Covarrubias joined the NWSHC in 2014. Lety was a Parent Mentor at Mary Lyon School when the Parent Mentor Program launched in 2013, then became the Parent Mentor Coordinator for the following three years. She currently holds an Intake Specialist position for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP).

Prior to working for the NWSHC, she worked as a Human Resources Coordinator for Hyatt Hotels. She was born in Chicago and resides in the Belmont-Cragin Community.

Cassandra Hernandez, Program Intake Specialist (English/Spanish)

Cassandra Hernandez joined the NWSHC in August of 2017. She currently holds an Intake Specialist position for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Cassandra was born and raised in Chicago. Cassandra has lived in the Belmont-Cragin community for the past 10 years. She has been an advocate for our neighborhood schools. Her advocacy can be seen through her leadership as a parent representative on the Local School Council at Steinmetz College Prep, as well as being a Belmont Cragin Quality of Life Plan committee member. Cassandra enjoys spending time with her family.

Migdalia Vazquez, Housing Counselor (English/Spanish)

Migdalia joined the NWSHC in 2014 and provides foreclosure prevention counseling in English and Spanish. Migdalia was born in Philadelphia, PA before moving to Chicago and living in the West Town neighborhood. She studied at UIC and the Office of Technology in Chicago. Migdalia has previous experience as a counselor at Spanish Coalition for Housing. Migdalia currently lives in Melrose Park and enjoys dancing, cooking and art.

Email Migdalia at

Norma Ramirez, Housing Counselor (English/Spanish)

Norma Ramirez joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in 2012, initially as a Intake Specialist. Now she is a Housing Counselor providing foreclosure prevention counseling in English and Spanish. Norma is a native Chicagoan. She holds her Associates Degree from Truman College and is a certified Paralegal. Prior to joining the NWSHC Norma was in ICE Customs for the Department of Homeland Security. Norma currently lives in Elmwood Park and enjoys swimming, antique shopping, and playing with her dog.

Email Norma at

Migdalia “Daly” Roldan, Housing Counselor and Rental Counselor (English/Spanish)

Daly joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in 2010, initially as a receptionist, then a Housing Counselor. Daly now works as a Rental Counselor helping individuals make appropriate decisions to acquire safe and affordable rental housing and overseeing rental education workshops. Prior to joining the NWHSC, Daly worked for the Chicago Public Schools for 11 years and was a supervisor at LaSalle Bank for five years. Daly was born in Boston, Massachusetts, lived in Puerto Rico, and has lived on the northwest side of Chicago for over 20 years. Daly lives with her husband of 23 years and their two children in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. Daly enjoys dancing in her free time.

Email Daly at

Ivelisse "Ive" Santiago, Pre-Purchase Counselor (English/Spanish)

Ive joined the NWSHC in February 2015 as a Rental Counselor and is now our Pre-Purchase Counselor. Ive has over five years of experience in foreclosure counseling, mediation and first-time homebuyer education. Ive was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Chicago and has lived on the northwest side for most of her life. Her parents have also been residents of Belmont Cragin for 20 years. Ive loves to cook and is currently studying for a degree in Business Management.

Email Ive at

Carmen Landecho, Financial Coach (English/Spanish)

Carmen Landecho joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in 2015. Carmen, originally from Central America, has called Chicago home since 1986 and has been a Belmont Cragin resident since 2002. Carmen brings over fifteen years of counseling experience from her previous work at Spanish Coalition for Housing and beyond. Carmen manages and oversees our Woman Forward Chicago and our Match Savings Program. In her free time, Carmen can be found enjoying tropical spiritual music, and it is with this energy that she will be infusing the programs she oversees and the individuals she works with at Northwest Side Housing Center.

Email Carmen at

Joanna Kwiatkowska, Polish Outreach Specialist (English/Polish)

Joanna joined the NWSHC as a Polish Outreach Specialist in 2015. She is responsible for maintaining contact with Polish-speaking clients and providing housing and financial information to those clients. Joanna was born and raised near Warsaw, Poland and has lived on and off in Chicago for the last ten years. Joanna earned a degree in Architecture and Urban Design from HafenCity University in Hamburg, Germany and has worked in architectural offices in Germany and Switzerland. Joanna enjoys the arts, riding her bicycle and a good dose of friendship.

Email Joanna at

Vanessa Valentin, Director of Community Organizing (English/Spanish)

Vanessa joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in 2009 and has held a variety of positions including administrative assistant, intake specialist, housing counselor and community organizer. She was born in Puerto Rico and has lived in Chicago for 27 years. As a long term resident of the northwest side, Vanessa has always been passionate about the community and working to make the northwest side a great place to live. Vanessa graduated from Lincoln Park High School and holds an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from Triton College. Vanessa started her professional career working for the Cook County Board of Elections. Vanessa oversees the NWSHC’s community organizing efforts and works to develop community leaders identifying issues in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood.Vanessa also manages the Northwest Side Housing Center’s Cook County Foreclosure Prevention Mediation Outreach Program. Vanessa lives in the Dunning neighborhood with her husband, mother and two sons.

Email Vanessa at

Jeremy Cuebas Youth Organizer

Jeremy joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in September 2017, and since then he has hit the ground running. Jeremy has over 8 years of experience in working with children and youth, he has held a variety of positions such as Child caretaker for his local YMCA and Youth Pastor at his local church, New Life Covenant located in the Belmont – Cragin neighborhood. He graduated from then Gordon Technical High School which is now De Paul College Preparatory High School. After high school, Jeremy attended a gap year program called Masters Commission which is a 9 month discipleship program. During those 9 months Jeremy worked with different people from different walks of life. He organized and led volunteer programs to feed the poor, clean the streets of Puerto Rico, and be a lifelong friend to the young people of his homeland. Jeremy is excited for the things to come in his personal life and in his time here at NWSHC. He enjoys playing basketball and watching documentaries about historic events.

Mirella “Mimi” Bandera, Education Organizer (English/Spanish)

Mimi joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in 2014 and is responsible for managing the education organizing efforts, with a focus on the Parent Mentor Program. Previously Mimi worked at J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 where she was a Teacher’s Assistant at the freshman level and helped at events sponsored by the school’s clubs to help the community of Cicero. Mimi was born and raised in Chicago and earned an A.A. in Liberal Arts from Wright College. Mimi lives in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood and enjoys reading, meditating, and going on nature walks.

Email Mimi at

Elaine Bellis, Older Adult Organizer

Elaine joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in November 2014 and organizes issues related to Older Adults, including the Age Friendly Banking Program and preventing fraud and scams against older adults. Elaine was born and raised in East Grand Rapids, MI and attended the Roosevelt University, as well as receiving a scholarship for Interior Design from the Art Institute of Chicago. Prior to joining the NWSHC, Elaine worked for the Xerox Corporation in their Finance division, as well as for the Community Renewal Society.

Currently, Elaine is working with older adults at both Montclare Senior Residences and Belmont Cragin Senior Suites to install Bus Shelters at Grand & Meade and Grand & Normandy, respectively. Older Adults at these buildings are also organizing to request an extension of the 86 Bus Route.

Elaine lives in the South Side of Chicago and enjoys working out, listening to music, dancing and seeing plays in her free time.

Email Elaine at

Ernie Lukasik, Housing Organizer

Ernie and his wife came to Northwest Side Housing Center as a couple facing foreclosure. We fought with the Lukasik’s to save their home and we won. Ever since their victory, Ernie has become a tireless volunteer, engaging and educating neighbors and the community on ways they can fight back and save their homes. From a client, to a volunteer, now a leader, Ernie has been an essential component to our Housing Organizing.

A performer by trade, Ernie bring his years of experience in the arts to his enthusiastic work. Ernie is not only a Housing Organizer, but a member of the Cook County Circuit Court Outreach and a co-chairman on NWSHC’s Housing Committee.

Rosa Lopez

Rosa N. Lopez first join NWSHC in August of 2014, as Parent Mentor Coordinator for Belmont Cragin School and Early Childhood Center in the Belmont Cragin Community. Rosa is now a Go CPS Specialist focusing on seven schools in Network 1. Rosa is born and raised in Chicago and has lived her whole life in the Belmont Cragin Community. She is the mother of a young son, who is soon to be a pre school student in the BC community.

This is her third Non Profit Organization she has worked for ( NNF, MFS & NWSHC). She has also been working on and off with CPS for about 17 years. She is a Seinmetz H.S. graduate class of 01.

Rosa loves to spend time with her son and family, cook, dance, sign karaoke and she considers herself an amateur foodie.

Cook County Court Mediation Outreach Workers

Carlos Olivero – Cook County Court Mediation Outreach Worker