Too often, Chicago’s most vulnerable women feel voiceless and out of control of their circumstances. Meet Melinda.
At one time in her life, Melinda lived by the philosophy of “taking control of everything, and making things happen.” In 2005, however, she faced a tragedy beyond her control--the death of her sister. After this devastating loss, Melinda left home and set out to find a new life in Indiana. Unable to gain proper footing there after a number of years, Melinda found herself on a bus headed to Chicago in hopes of finding stability.
Melinda went from shelter to shelter and slept on public benches before hearing about a “safe space” in Uptown that worked with women. She sought out Sarah’s Circle and began the process of regaining control of her life—“The workers at Sarah’s Circle treated me with dignity and respect. Sarah’s Circle helped me to get my identification cards, access resources for food, and supported me in my efforts to return back to school."
This past year has been an eventful one at Sarah’s Circle. We took on a 50-bed interim housing program for women expanding our services to 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, expanded our clinical services, and began construction on our new building. We are planning for further improvements in staffing and facilities for interim housing. These developments have had and will continue to have a profound effect on the lives of women like Melinda.
Melinda is now working with a case manager to find a job and secure permanent, affordable housing. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and spending time with the staff and other women at Sarah's Circle.
"I am extremely grateful for there being a Sarah’s Circle and the wonderful people they get to work with us [ladies]. They really go out of their way and motivate me to do better."
Your support allows us to continue to help women like Melinda. Thank you!
We are excited to begin construction on our new home that will house our daytime program, office space for housing, case management and clinical services, and ten apartment for women with a history of chronic homelessness. The building will enable Sarah's Circle to serve a growing number of women in their efforts to secure permanent housing and increase their self sufficiency.
This building is made possible by pro bono legal and architectural services provided by Mayer Brown and Perkins + Will, and funding from individuals, foundations, the City of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Home Loan Bank, and the Illinois Development Authority, representing their shared commitment to ending homeless for women in Chicago.
Next Wednesday we will host a Groundbreaking Ceremony to mark the beginning of construction. All are welcome to join Sarah's Circle at this celebration on September 12th, from 6pm-8pm. It will be held at the Boys & Girls Club across the street from the new building site at 4835 N Sheridan Road. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and beverages will be served. Senator Heather Steans and Alderman James Cappleman will give opening remarks at 6:30pm, highlighting the importance of Sarah's Circle. Additionally, a client who recently secured housing will speak about her experience with homelessness.
We hope you'll be able to join us! If you plan to come, please email Caroline at email@example.com.
Thank you again for your commitment to Sarah's Circle's work and believing in our mission.
Meet Joyce, affectionately known as JJ. She plays an important role on Sarah's Circle's Board of Directors and is a former client of Sarah's Circle.
JJ worked for thirty five years in the Trauma Unit of Cook County Hospital. While she worked hard every day and at many night shifts, she found time on the side to pursue her passion for cosmetology. In fact, she attended school part-time and received a full scholarship. Her true passion, she still says, is cosmetology and doing hair. She worked full-time at the hospital while working part-time at a salon to pursue her more creative talents.
But a traumatic experience in 2002 was a turning point in JJ’s life. When she returned home from work one day, her son beat her so intensely that she was left physically and mentally traumatized. “I didn’t even know who I was after that. I was so lost. I couldn’t believe my son would beat me like he did. His eyes were so cold... like he was on drugs.” After this crisis, she was so traumatized and in such physical and emotional pain that she couldn’t go back to work. “From my job, I never got any closure. The reason I left [so abruptly] is because of the trauma I had.” Subsequently, she lost everything financially and could no longer afford her apartment.
After she was released from the hospital, she stayed in an Interim Housing Program in the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago. This was when she also started coming to Sarah’s Circle for daytime supportive services.
“I went to – and still go to – the trauma, mood management, and art therapy groups at Sarah's Circle. Art therapy really calms me down. Mood management helps me deal with my anxiety. Trauma group helps me realize other people have experienced it, and it makes me feel like I’m not alone.”
While a local agency helped JJ secure transitional housing for 2 years, she was unsatisfied with the arrangements and did not have the option to choose where she lived. She became involved in an advocacy campaign in support of getting affordable housing in Uptown. She applied to become a resident at an Uptown apartment building, was accepted, and became a resident. This is where she has been living for the past 2 years. “I like my place. I chose the apartment I wanted.”
“The first 2 years I came here I couldn’t comprehend or stay focused because of the trauma I had been through. Attending the different groups at Sarah's Circle really helped me. Every time I go through my depressed phase, Sarah’s Circle helps me. I always know I have a place to come where I feel safe.”
JJ was the oldest of 11 children. “I always had the responsibility of taking care of my siblings. Now I’m 69 and I just need to take care of myself. It’s uncomfortable; I have to learn how to take care of just Joyce. I’ve learned to jot things down and stay focused and work on socializing more. I’m participating in a walking club through my building.” She's also a very active member of the community.
“Sarah’s Circle has helped me love myself more, and I’ve learned that when I need help, I should let someone know. I know that I can always come to Sarah’s Circle for help.”
Thank you for your support of Sarah's Circle.
Tina is a compassionate woman who enjoys caring for others. For years she worked as a Certified Nurse's Assistant, dedicated to the patients she helped.
Tina became homeless in 2008 when she lost her job and left her boyfriend. Since then she has received help with her depression through clinical services at Sarah's Circle. In large part, her depression is rooted in a long history of trauma and domestic violence.
Where is Tina now?
Tina is one of many success stories at Sarah's Circle.
Sarah's Circle's Housing Coordinator placed 60 women in permanent housing in 2011.
Thanks to donors like you, Tina and women like her have rebuilt their lives.
Sarah's Circle's Annual Christmas Dinner
Last Wednesday evening, we served Christmas dinner to over 70 women. Each woman also received a gift bag or stocking filled with hand-knit scarves, toiletries, wrapped presents, and baked goods.
A special thank you to our generous donors who donated holiday gifts: Marie Zimmerman, Debra Flynn, Sherry Barnett, "The Angel Team," Linda Williams, those over at St. John Fisher, McDonalds, and Brady, Connolly, & Masuda P.C.
We'd also like to thank our committed volunteers who helped serve the meal. You all helped make the event a success!
A closer look: our 50-bed interim housing program
The women currently in the program struggle with various challenges, and most have been homeless for years. Anne Marie Keswick, Program Director, explains, "95% of the women in the program have mental illnesses, while 85% are chronically homeless."
With these challenges, they will need a lot of support to stay housed, so the focus is on placing them in permanent supportive housing. Permanent supportive housing is affordable housing with case management and other supportive services to help formerly homeless people stay housed.
There is a shortage of permanent supportive housing and many requirements to get into programs, so we are delighted that Megan Libreros, Housing Coordinator, has already housed 3 women from the program since November 1st. This is in addition to her work housing women in the daytime program and providing case management to the women in Sarah's Circle's 11 housing units.
Thank you for your continued support.
We are able to provide life changing services for women who are homeless because of your confidence in our ability to deliver effective programs and your commitment to ending homelessness.
From all of us at Sarah's Circle, thank you again for all of your support. We wish happy and healthy New Year to all!
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