Her family moved from shelter to shelter with no stable housing in sight. Facing limited options, Angie decided she needed to care for herself, and moved to the streets.
Soon, she met a man who offered her a roof over her head, food and clothes. But there was a catch – she would need to go to work for him, as a prostitute on the streets of Chicago. For three years, Angie worked every day with the expectation she would bring a predetermined amount of money back to her pimp.
A few years later she found herself pregnant and decided it was time to leave. “It certainly wasn’t easy but I did it,” Angie said. “One day I just never came back.”
She said the important part for people leaving the life is having the support system there for them. “I was able to go to my family,” she said. “If there is nowhere safe to live that is away from the system, people are just going to stay where they are. It is easier, and sometimes safer.”
Angie said she was more scared after she left then when she was a prostitute. “When I was on the streets, I was just numb. You do what you need to do in order to survive. The scary part was when I left; I was afraid that people would come looking for me and hurt my child.”
After Angie left her pimp, she was connected with a staff member from The Salvation Army’s STOP-IT anti-trafficking program.
The program partners with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and other organizations to provide a host of services to victims including safety planning, identifying stable housing, medical, mental health and dental care, tattoo/branding removal, education and job training, transportation and more. In Angie’s words:
Angie and her family are now in stable housing, one child is in school and another is on the way. She is working to complete her GED with her STOP-IT caseworker’s help. Completing her education and making sure her children receive an education is empowering, according to Angie.
“I have big dreams for my kids,” she said with hope in her voice. “I want them to get an education, get a degree, be successful and have dreams of their own.”
*Names and identifying information have been changed.
There’s no better metaphor for new life than the transition of winter into spring. I love the way C. S. Lewis describes it in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe:
Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and beeches and elms. Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away altogether. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor . . .
More than four decades later, she’s still working with the organization, now as a teacher with The Salvation Army’s New Hope Head Start program. For her career of service, Stevenson was recently honored as the Illinois Head Start Association’s Teacher of the Year.
Stevenson, who put her own children through Head Start, has been teaching in The Salvation Army’s childcare programs for 33 years. She says it’s been a “wonderful opportunity to serve children and their families from diverse cultures.” She works primarily with African-Americans and Hispanics, and says she has “gained much from years of experience working in a bilingual and diverse cultural environment.” Read More
Things got even harder when my mother was incarcerated, leaving just me, my 13-year-old sister, and my unborn baby. We were essentially homeless, until we ended up moving in with my grandparents.
I decided to enroll at Simpson Academy, the only public school for pregnant girls and teen mothers in Illinois. The school has a graduation rate of more than 90 percent, so I knew I’d get a good education and, hopefully, go on to college. Read More
Just ask Brianna (11), Arianna (9), and Jayden (8), who had the time of their lives last summer at The Salvation Army’s Wonderland Camp.
As soon as they boarded the bus in their gritty Englewood neighborhood for the two-hour ride to camp, all three were giddy with excitement.
“The first night we had a campfire,” says Brianna. “I made s’mores for the first time!” Read More