If home is where the heart is, one can only imagine how empty those without a roof over their heads must feel. Sure, you might beat yourself up because you’re still renting or because you still can’t afford to get that dream home—but that’s nothing compared to the struggles that come with being homeless. And yes, it can happen to anyone.
Thankfully, the city has a large network of resources for those in need, whether you have a family, or are rolling solo. But think about it. If you were a single woman, would you feel comfortable heading for cover by yourself? Enter Deborah’s Place, Chicago’s first shelter exclusively for women, which has grown into the largest provider of supportive housing over the past 30 years.
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The Rebecca Johnson Apartments are home to 90 women, with half the units reserved for women with disabilities. This location in East Garfield Park also houses the administrative offices of Deborah’s Place.
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Deborah’s Place Board Chair Robin Ross, Honorary Event Chair Gaynor Hall Patterson, and Board Member Janel Saar at the 30th Anniversary Opening Doors Benefit, held on June 12, 2015, at Harold Washington Library Center. Photo by Gramatics Productions.
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Volunteers from Sammons Financial Group join Deborah’s Place residents in a craft activity at the Rebecca Johnson Apartments’ Learning Center.
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Mary McFadden, a resident in the Rebecca Johnson Apartments, recently completed the coursework for her Associate’s Degree. Residents at Deborah’s Place have access to Learning Centers where they are encouraged to achieve goals for education and self-expression.
More than a dozen “Founding Mothers” came together in 1985 because of the lack of housing resources for single women. Today, Deborah’s Place has a team of 50 full-time staff and 800 volunteers who assist on a yearly basis. “Most existing shelters served single men, and women did not feel safe spending the night in these environments, preferring to sleep on the street,” said Erin Watson, Communications Manager for Deborah’s Place. “Women experience homelessness differently from men: they’re more likely to experience sexual violence and other forms of trauma, in addition to the trauma of homelessness itself.”
But Deborah’s Place doesn’t just provide warm meals and a place to sleep. They also offer interim and permanent housing for women (including individuals who identify as female or non-binary) over the age of 18 who do not have children. “In some of our permanent housing programs, residents must have a disabling condition,” said Watson.
“We take all referrals for our permanent housing from Chicago’s Central Referral System, which allows all homeless services providers in the city to maintain a central list of people experiencing homelessness, prioritizing those who are most vulnerable to receive appropriate housing as soon as it becomes available.”
When it comes to available resources, there’s a waitlist followed by a screening process—conducted by staff—for both interim and permanent housing. At the organization’s facilities, staff works with the women to help achieve life-changing goals such as stable housing, employment, family reunification, and improved health. Ideally, this process occurs within 120 days, but the length of a resident’s stay depends upon the availability of affordable housing options.
For those with a severe mental illness and/or who have been chronically homeless, there are Safe Haven houses where women are free to come and go for an indefinite amount of time, compete with access to meals, health services, learning center access, art therapy, computer access, and more. “These individuals are considered the hardest to serve,” said Watson. “Our staff works with them to build trusting relationships, while encouraging them to see the Safe Haven as a resource to achieve the goals they self-identify.” fw
SAVE THE DATE:
The Young Professional Board is hosting a fundraising fete on October 14 at the Highline in River North. Visit Deborahsplace.org for more information.