Understanding the root causes and solutions to homelessness is complicated, which is why I was so grateful to be asked by Illinois Public Media to speak with Niala Boodhoo onThe 21st, a statewide radio show, about the services Connections is providing, the challenges we face, and the need for affordable housing. You can click hereto listen to the segment.
When Marsha came to us, she was already homeless. She and her two children were bouncing between friends, family, shelters, and on bad nights… her car. Despite the challenges, Marsha was maintaining a job. But her income wasn’t enough for her to get an apartment in an area that would keep her kids in their school. With Connections’ support, Marsha moved into an apartment and access employment, education, childcare, and transportation services to begin to stabilize and strengthen her family.
We were thrilled to recently expand our housing program, adding 5 more units of supportive housing to help more families like Marsha’s move quickly from homelessness to housing. These additional units of housing provide short-term rent assistance, coupled with robust services, to prepare all members of the family for a strong, stable and secure future.
SAYING GOODBYE TO LISA TODD It was standing room only as the community gathered on Thursday, May 16 to share memories of working with Lisa Todd, Connections’ Volunteer Coordinator, and to wish her well as she begins a new adventure in Minneapolis. For 9 years, Lisa developed and led Connections’ volunteer program – growing it to more than 1,300 individuals annually.
Stephanie joined our team of volunteers managing the front desk reception at our administrative offices at the time when was a role in transition and one that we were trying to staff completely with volunteers.
What we immediately saw in Stephanie was an ability to get things done, stay organized in the midst of an evolving system, and propose solutions for improvement. She has stayed with us through lots of change, helping strengthen our services to participants and our community.
992 people! Since expanding our drop-in services one year ago from two days per week to five, we have served 992 people and provided more than 24,000 services.
This incredible growth in the number of people we are serving and the services we are providing is thanks to support of our community. From financial resources to in-kind donations to volunteer hours, it is our community that makes it possible for us to offer critical services to people who are homeless. Services we know they need and deserve, and services that we are proud to provide.
Kurtis came to live at Connections’ transitional living program, Our House, in September of 2017. While in the house, Kurtis has been quick to take advantage of all the program offers. He participates in life skills and employment opportunities, engages in employment training programs, and connects to our clinical services to keep moving forward.
Thalma Brooms, Youth Programs Manager, noted, "His eagerness and positive attitude have helped him overcome obstacles and move through tough moments. This is what I like about Kurtis. He keeps pushing after he’s been knocked down, and he always gets back up and finds a new way."
In Landladies, a landlady and tenant find much in common, but their friendship walks a delicate balance. Faced with dilemmas that pit fairness versus kindness and honesty versus eviction, both women are determined to build a home, and both know the threat of losing one. It’s a story that’s all too common – even on the North Shore.
After the performance, panelists Sue Loellbach (Manager of Advocacy, Connections for the Homeless), Sarah Flax (Housing & Grants Administrator, City of Evanston), and Mark Tendam, Northlight Theatre Trustee & Connections for the Homeless Board Member discussed the relevance of the play’s themes to Chicago’s North Shore and what community members can do to make a difference.
I remember November 20th vividly. I was with a group of fellow Evanston executive directors, and we were talking about how to help our staff deal with the trauma they saw on an everyday basis – the trauma of our participants lives. In the middle of that meeting I got a call telling me that one of our participants had been brutally murdered.
Tanuel, sometimes known as Daisy, had been found beaten to death on the steps of First United Methodist Church. Our Connections' community, and the community at-large, was in shock.
On Saturday, February 9, more than 350 supporters gathered for THRIVE, Connections' signature fundraising event. The event, re-imagined in 2017, is the North Shore's premier culinary tasting party, featuring 12 restaurants and three mixologists, as well as nine bakeries in the now-famous Sugar Rush! Beyond just a great party, Connections is proud to announce that this year's event raised over $525,000 - shattering all previous event records. The funds raised support Connections' critical work of ending homelessness on the North Shore, one person at a time.
Just days after starting at Connections in February, James Barnett, our Outreach Specialist, was dispatched to where Tina was camped outside the Skokie Public Library. Tina had been living on the streets, wheelchair bound, since 2015 – sleeping outside Evanston’s City Hall, in Independence Park, a local bus shelter, and at times in front of the Skokie Police Department.
James began regularly visiting her, sometimes daily, trying to build a trusting relationship. That was no easy task as Tina strongly refused most help and often became belligerent and combative when approached.