As the temperatures drop way below freezing in Chicago, the danger for those who are homeless increases. Families and individuals living on the streets – in alleys, doorways, parks and below underpasses – try to move inside to avoid the brutal cold and whipping wind. But there aren’t nearly enough shelters with beds to provide a warm and safe space for everyone, and sometimes those most vulnerable are unable to find a place to stay overnight. For those left out in the cold, the extreme weather like we’ve had since Christmas – can be deadly.
But The Salvation Army is working around the clock to help people stay warm or find shelter if needed. Here’s what we’re doing:
The Mobile Feeding & Homeless Outreach Unit makes more than 24 stops every day to provide a hot meal to those living on the street. The unit is often the first contact homeless individuals have with The Salvation Army. “The food is our calling card,” said Major Nancy Powers, Program Development Officer at the Freedom Center, the home base for the unit. Staff on the mobile unit can provide on-site assessments and immediate transportation to substance abuse treatment centers or shelters for anyone who accepts help. On dangerously cold nights, the mobile unit makes a second round of visits, offering to bring people to shelters and supplying food, drinks, hats, gloves and blankets for those who wish to stay on the streets.
The Evangeline Booth Lodge is one of Chicago’s only family shelters, keeping parents and children together during a time of intense crisis. The shelter provides a home for as many as 220 parents and children each night. In addition to a roof over their heads, Booth Lodge also provides food, clothing, housing placement, and job search assistance; as well as tutoring and after-school activities for children. This spring, The Salvation Army will open Shield of Hope – Chicago’s First Rapid-Response Homeless Assessment and Response Center – which will help an additional 75 families avoid homelessness.
Keeping Families in Their Homes
According to recent studies, the majority of American families live paycheck to paycheck. When an unexpected event (e.g., job loss, medical emergency, fire/flood, etc.) hits, families are thrust into crisis and in danger of losing their home. But The Salvation Army steps in to help with rent/mortgage payments, groceries, utility payments, clothing/furniture vouchers, medication, and/or transportation assistance. By providing these basic needs, families are able to stay in their homes and weather the storm. Families who seek to empower themselves for the long-term may enroll in the Pathway of Hope program, which helps them identify barriers to success and make plans of action to overcome those barriers.
If You Need Help
There are several things you can do if you need help during this record-breaking cold snap:
- Visit your local Corps Community Center. The Salvation Army centers provide a warm place for you to rest and engage in activities during the cold weather. You can also access additional social services and receive referrals to other resources.
- Call 311. The City of Chicago can arrange for wellness checks, direct you to warming shelters, or put you in contact with the homeless assessment center.
- Visit The Community Service Center at 10 South Kedzie. Staff will assess your situation and link you with a warming center, homeless shelter or other resources.
If you want to provide help