Who is Homeless?
The Reality of Homelessness in the NW Suburbs
There are over 3,000 reported cases of homelessness in all of suburban Cook County*. In the Northwest Suburbs alone, there are 1,200 homeless people accessing shelters with approximately 400 additional homeless people residing on streets, in cars, and throughout forest preserves.
Homelessness does not discriminate and can be chronic or situational. It affects a variety of people including youth, families with children, single/married adults, and senior citizens. A large number of homeless have served in the armed forces. Many times these individuals have no healthy support system.
Diverse educational backgrounds are found among the homeless, ranging from no education to post-graduate degrees.
Frequently Reported Reasons for Homelessness
- Lack of affordable housing
- Mental illness
- Chemical dependency
- Substance abuse
- Family problems
- Bad luck
- Domestic violence
- Condemned housing
* Source: Illinois Coalition to End Homelessness
It Takes a Village
During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, JOURNEYS served 1,136 clients through the HOPE Center and PADS sites. The HOPE Center delivered over 26,457 services, and the PADS sites hosted 13,878 overnight stays and served 41,232 meals. Through the combined efforts of our staff and volunteers, we were successful in transitioning 74 clients out of homelessness and preventing 688 clients from becoming homeless during this past fiscal year.
Our commitment to serving the homeless is comprehensive and determined. JOURNEYS’ employees are assisted by a pool of 2,500 volunteers who put in over 75,000 hours a year at the HOPE Center and PADS sites.
Stories of HOPE
JOURNEYS | The Road Home has been able to help hundreds of people move out of the homeless system and back to a stable, independent environment. These are some of their stories.
Tara Finds HOPE
Tara is a middle aged Latino woman who has been using the shelters off and on over the last five years. She is very soft-spoken and has a kind smile. She is fluent in three languages, and once she knows someone, is gregarious.
Prior to coming to JOURNEYS, she lived with her husband until he became emotionally and physically abusive. She has her GED, and is very motivated to work. However, her main training is in home health care, particularly as a live-in caregiver. Finding transportation to work is a particular challenge, especially in the suburbs where public transit is non-existent in some locations. Often she will work in Chicago, and then pays a large proportion of her income to travel expenses.
When working full-time, Tara makes around $1000 a month on average. With Journey’s help, she recently completed Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) courses at Oakton Community College. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find steady full-time work as a live-in caregiver. Hopefully with her CNA she will find steady work.
Tara does not use the shelters consistently, and is part of a growing group of the working poor that pay for motel rooms part of the month, and uses the shelter other parts of the month. She is attempting to save about $100 a month to eventually have enough for her own apartment.
Tara is a survivor of domestic abuse, and suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. She takes medication for the symptoms, but is uncomfortable talking about her health because she believes people should not be on medication. Tara’s situation is typical of one of the fastest growing segments of homeless clients that Journeys now serves.
Tara currently is using the shelter when not in hotels, and is actively applying for CNA jobs. Her average income has gone up, and she hopes to find an apartment within the next 3 months.
A Family Finds HOPE
Jon and Bonnie, a white couple, live in a small apartment in Arlington Heights with their teenage daughter Jane. Jon works full-time through temporary agencies at manual labor jobs such as steel mills and factories. Bonnie works through temporary agencies as well, doing data entry and phone reception. Jane is B student and is very active in theater.
The family initially presented to Journeys as street homeless, but within a few months had secured a stable apartment. Both parents were very motivated to save money and move into an apartment, and benefited from a federal program that transitioned them into an apartment by helping with security deposit and rent. They came to JOURNEYS after recently relocating from Atlanta because both Jon and Bonnie’s companies laid them off when the economy melted down in 08-09. Jon has family in the area, and chose the suburbs to relocate for this reason.
Both parents receive weekly case management from Journeys. This case management focuses on interviewing skills, job leads, and computer training for Jon. He is also in recovery from alcohol dependence, and seeks support from Journeys staff to remain sober. He says that his wife and daughter are his inspiration.
Bonnie receives counseling for the sexual abuse she survived as a teenager. She comes to Journeys for assistance in how to raise her daughter in a healthy environment, and to work on the issues with trust she experiences in her marriage. Both Jon and Bonnie are very spiritual people who believe that hard work and a belief in a life plan will help them negotiate any challenge.
The family has continued to sustain this apartment with no missed rent payments for the last 6 months. The couple comes in regularly for counseling, and they describe their daughter as very happy to have a stable home and school situation. They hope to move to a slightly bigger apartment when their current lease expires.
George Finds HOPE
George is a 40 year old man African-American man with a master’s degree who initially came to Journeys looking for advice on how to get mental health treatment for his 12 year old son Kyle. George was an Information Technology professional that owned his own house and made in excess of $80,000 a year when employed full-time. However, his last company terminated his contract when the soft economy finally caught up to the marketing division. George now has contract work that pays substantially less with no health benefits, and he is having difficulty paying his mortgage.
George told JOURNEYS staff that his son was misbehaving at school and was caught drinking a beer by a friend’s parents. George does not have health insurance through this contract work, and was looking for low-cost/no-cost assistance for his son. He suspected that his son was acting out because he was being bullied at school and may also have been upset about his parent’s divorce two years ago.
JOURNEYS was able to provide short-term case management for George. He was given referrals for treatment for his son, and told that JOURNEYS would provide short-term mental health counseling for his family in the interim. Case managers shared the fact that many people like George walk into JOURNEYS, people who own their homes and work full-time. This was reassuring for George. JOURNEYS also provided food pantry and clothing assistance for George, so that he could put every extra dollar into his mortgage and avoid foreclosure.
JOURNEYS has only seen George a few times, but he says the referrals and brief support were extremely helpful because he felt like he had nowhere else to turn. George’s story is typical of the fastest growing segment of clients that are at-risk of becoming homeless.