A house that sits on Diversey Avenue in Logan Square is akin to an international hotel. Founded by Lyn Rye and Mah Nu, Casa Al-Fatiha is an autonomous housing project that provides free housing to LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. In addition to providing secure and sustainable housing, it seeks to become a model for autonomous housing projects across Chicago.

Since opening its doors in March 2021, Casa Al-Fatiha has provided support to five asylum seekers and someone in-need of housing after leaving pre-trial incarceration. Inspired by their time working at Masjid Al-Rabia, a Chicago-based Mosque that provides support for marginalized Muslims — black, indigenous, LGBTQ+ and formerly incarcerated Muslims — Rye’s goals for Casa Al-Fatiha are to avoid creating “another shelter” where there is a “hierarchy of power” while also developing an affirming environment for those who identify as LGBTQ+.

Inside Casa Al-Fatiha
Plants and crafts atop a bookshelf in Casa Al-Fatiha // Sergio Bardesi-Texocotitla, Chicago Monitor

Before arriving at Casa Al-Fatiha, Martha, la mexicana, and Violetta, la guatemalteca, were both detained in a detention center. After working with caseworkers from the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, Violetta and Martha were connected with Casa Al-Fatiha, and have lived there since.

According to Rye, Casa Al-Fatiha has forged strong relationships with partners that assist those who have been detained or incarcerated, such as the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) and prison abolitionist organization Black and Pink. This year, ICDI will be holding an annual fundraiser for Casa Al-Fatiha that will provide rent, food, hygienic products, and spending money for the asylum seekers.

In addition to providing support to housemates, Casa Al-Fatiha also runs a weekly distribution, which they affectionately refer to as “the food distro.” The distribution provides produce, clothes, and hygiene products to an average of 50-80 people from the neighborhood each week.

Casa Al-Fatiha runs the distribution “to build relationships with the neighbors, have an outward-facing function of our house, and [to] participate in mutual aid,” says Rye.

Garden at Casa al-Fatiha
Rye’s garden, where they harvest food for the Casa and neighbors. // Sergio Bardesi-Texocotitla, Chicago Monitor

These housemates consider themselves family, which they say helps massively because they share the same space. Rye and Nu’s musical talents are often used to put on fiestas for everybody. Violetta and Martha say that they spend a lot of time chismeando, or gossiping, amongst themselves.

Rye says that their long-term goal for Casa Al-Fatiha is to “not move for one year… The first step is to find the money necessary to stay here.” Above all, Rye aims to make Casa Al-Fatiha a model for a sustainably autonomous housing project.