Seeking stability: Programs lift people from homelessness to new life paths

Casa Esperanza came into being in 1994, when Sister Jean Kielty of the Society of Helpers realized that women and children in Chicago needed more time to find stability after experiencing homelessness.

At the time, people were given only 120 days to reside in city shelters. Sr. Jean was running shelters for Catholic Charities, and through her experiences wanted to find a new way to help this underserved community. She realized that the Society of Helpers had a building that became vacant recently. The Society was able to use it to open an extended transitional housing program for women and children. Thus, Casa Esperanza was born!

Casa Esperanza provides its residents with sorely needed stability at some of the most difficult times in their lives.

We provide the time and educational programs they require to move towards self-sufficiency. Many programs and classes are offered on a variety of subjects such as home maintenance, job search strategies, resumé building, childcare, etc.

We also partner with local institutions – for example, through the University of Illinois Extension we offer a monthly program educating participants about healthy lifestyle choices. This includes cooking tips, exercise, and priorities that they need to set to stay healthy and clean.

We also work with US Bank to offer a financial literacy program. It focuses on the basics of opening a checking or savings account, information about renting, mortgages, and managing credit.

These interactive sessions give participants opportunities to manage their finances and identify the various ways they can prepare themselves to experience an independent lifestyle.

Over the years, we have helped over 120 residents transition out of the shelter system into stable housing and new careers. We are also starting an alumni group to continue helping former residents as they navigate life.

One alumna has her own advice for those interested in Casa: “I encourage anyone who is going through a tough time to look for refuge through Casa, stay engaged and take advantage of the assistance that is offered.”

This alumna was with Casa Esperanza in the late 1990s/early 2000s. After her time at Casa Esperanza Project, she went on to receive her Associates degree in Business Administration from Robert Morris University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Chicago State University.

After her academic accomplishments, she started her family and had a beautiful daughter. In 2010, she started her own business but then chose to go back to school once again.

Our alumna attended Illinois Media School and received certification in Broadcasting. She has had much success since leaving Casa Esperanza and is a fantastic example of how important stability is to creating a new life!

With Covid-19, many of our in-person programs had to be put on hold, so we took this time to re-focus our efforts on the digital front.

In recent months, Casa Esperanza has brought a communication team on board to focus on updating our website and increasing outreach in the digital world. We now offer lists of resources for those living on the south side of Chicago and we are reaching out to make those resources available to a wider audience.

Casa Esperanza is in the process of becoming a community resource beyond the programs offered to our residents.

In addition, we are upgrading our outdoor space to provide a safe place for mothers to engage with their children. We plan to tear down the current run-down garage and build a small playground. This will be a perfect place for the children to play, learn, and grow which is not available in the immediate neighborhood.

In the Spring of 2021, Casa Esperanza hosted our first-ever virtual fundraiser called, “Swing into Summer for the Kids at Casa.”

Once the fundraiser finished, we were able to dive into this project and hope for it to be finished by the Spring of 2022.

As we enter the new year, we are very pleased to say that we have been able to welcome a couple of new families to our home. 


Casa Esperanza website:

casaesperanzachicago.org

On Facebook:

@casaesperanzachicago


NOTE: Casa Esperanza is one of the agencies receiving an OLVM Empowerment Grant.