Sarah's Circle

Sarah's Circle is a refuge for women who are homeless or in need of a safe space. By providing housing assistance, case management, referral services, and life necessities, we encourage women to empower themselves by rebuilding both emotionally and physically; realizing their unique potential.
Nov 17, 2015

Challenges of Women Who are Homeless

Statistics
Statistics

 While women come to Sarah’s Circle with great strengths, they also face many challenges. Structurally, Chicago has a shortage of affordable housing. Women who become homeless have also typically struggled with multiple challenges simultaneously. It is not only the shortage of affordable housing and limited income that lead to homelessness, but also outdated job skills, physical health problems, and the long-lasting impact of trauma.

 An in-depth research study conducted in Massachusetts confirmed what Sarah’s Circle has learned through experience, that approximately 92% of women who are homeless have experienced severe physical or sexual assault at some point in their lifetime. Whether these assaults were child abuse early in life, recent domestic violence, or random acts of violence, these traumas often have long-lasting effects. A history of trauma has been linked to physical health problems, mental illness, and substance use disorders.

 These issues are major challenges for women, but can also be understood and addressed more effectively through a strength-based lens. For example, hyper-vigilance, the trait of constantly being on guard for possible threats, is a common symptom of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Yet, for women who have experienced severe assaults, being on guard for possible threats may be a way they have adapted to avoid future trauma. Other women may use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate when they do not have access to treatment. Sarah’s Circle’s effective Clinical Services programming helps women learn new coping strategies, while understanding the strength they have shown in finding other ways to cope when they did not have sufficient supports. 

Aug 26, 2015

Permanent Housing Impact

 In 2014 Sarah’s Circle made significant progress both in expanding programmatic capacity and helping women meet their goals. One of our most important measures of success is the number of women placed into permanent housing. Despite dramatic reductions in affordable housing available in the community, Sarah’s Circle helped 92 women move into permanent housing in 2014. Most of these placements came from our Interim Housing Program, which increased the rate of placing women into permanent housing by approximately 30%. The women achieved their goals faster and opened more space in the program to provide shelter and supportive services to other women in need.

 Programmatic capacity was expanded in the Daytime Program by extending hours until 7pm on Thursday evenings. The new meal fills a gap in food availability in the community and provides extra time for engagement and case management with women in need of help who may have other obligations during the workday. Staff also helped women achieve hundreds of goals in addition to housing placements, such as gaining employment, securing benefits, and completing therapy to address past trauma.

 The Permanent Supportive Housing Program helped 100% of the women living in our permanent supportive housing to maintain their housing or to move on to other permanent housing in the community when they no longer needed such a high level of support. Additionally, Sarah’s Circle was able to expand one of the grants for the program to include one additional unit for a total of 22 units, ending homelessness for one more woman in need.  

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Jun 11, 2015

Strengths of Women Served

Strength Collage
Strength Collage

 Women come to Sarah’s Circle with incredible strength and resilience. Most have shown deep fortitude and resourcefulness to survive desperate circumstances. They have also demonstrated a willingness to ask for help and work to rebuild even after so many people in their lives have turned them away.

 Women also have unique individual strengths. An important part of the case management process involves conducting an assessment to determine each woman’s individual strengths and challenges. Service plans are then tailored to the circumstances and goals of each woman. If a woman has skills and interest in food service, the case manager might try to connect her to an employment program focused on that sector. If a woman struggles with a mental illness but has a strength of being able to connect with others, a group therapy setting might be a good fit.

 An important component of Clinical Services is often helping women recognize their own strengths. Homelessness can contribute to depression and a loss of a sense of positive self worth. By coming to appreciate their own strengths, women improve their self-esteem and ability to use those strengths to rebuild their lives. In addition to generating the words used in the “word cloud” pictured on the cover of our annual report, women in an art therapy group created the collage shown above to illustrate their strengths. While women listed many specific strengths, there is an overarching theme of hope, faith, and the ability to stay positive despite so much adversity.

 
   

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