This week, The Salvation Army held the grand opening and a ribbon cutting for The Shield of Hope Center; the nation’s first emergency homeless assessment and rapid-response center addressing the needs of families in crisis. This is a partnership with the City of Chicago, and expands upon the Army’s full range of services to Chicago’s homeless population.
The day included remarks from Lt. Colonels Charles and Sharon Smith, Divisional leaders, and Commissioner F. Bradford Bailey, Central Territorial Commander. Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. and City Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler also spoke and shared their pleasure at the addition of this new facility.
“This is a gift to the City,” said Alderman Burnett. “Thank you [to The Salvation Army] for helping the City help those at their time of need.”
Through an innovative service model, The Shield of Hope will triage and assess families who are homeless and help them find more stable living situations within 14 days. This could include living with family or friends, or finding affordable housing that is more suitable to their needs and situation. The facility is able to provide shelter for as many as 75 family members.
“We will be able to provide shelter, food and warmth – the basics,” said Lt. Colonel Charles Smith, The Salvation Army Metropolitan Divisional Commander. “But our greatest desire is that within this facility families will be able to find a sense of security. To experience a sense of dignity and worth – and more importantly – a sense of hope for a better future as they transition to a life of increased stability.”
The Shield of Hope is designed to provide a home-like atmosphere for families, with private bedrooms and bathrooms. There is a study room for children to work on homework and other projects, laundry rooms, and a play area for children.
There is a communal dining area with a warming kitchen. Meals are provided by the Freedom Center Campus; and if parents work late, a meal will be kept warm for them. Families staying at the center will also have access to an array of services at the Freedom Center, including recreational and educational class for the entire family, social service programs, food services, job training, treatment for substance abuse, and much more.
The Shield of Hope won’t just provide temporary shelter. This is an entry point into the greater menu of Salvation Army programs designed to help people through crisis and set them up to better navigate their future. Once a family finds permanent housing, they will be connected with a local Salvation Army corps community center to continue support services including after-school activities, a food pantry and worship services. This design is a larger holistic approach to the Army’s ministry – to provide love, compassion and hope for those most in need.
After the dedication and ribbon cutting, guests took tours of the new building and enjoyed light refreshments.
The Shield of Hope begins serving families on March 12. To support the services provided by The Shield of Hope, you can make a donation here.