While connecting people with a place to live is an important part of the work we do in our Housing program, there are countless other services, big and small, that go into helping participants get back on their feet. Our individualized approach, providing support and connecting people with the resources they need makes a huge difference for people like Philip, who joined the program after spending six years in a nearby shelter.
Philip’s financial troubles began when he got laid off from his job in the foodservice industry in 2009. He was determined to find work, and even walked several miles from his apartment in the Edgewater neighborhood to attend interviews downtown, with little success. “You don’t see the person face to face. It’s just like a lottery, so it was very difficult”, he says. Eventually, unable to keep up with rent, he was evicted.
While Philip was grateful for a bed at the shelter, he missed the freedom of independent living, and was eager to find a place of his own. He kept a positive attitude by staying busy, spending a lot of time at the library, and volunteering at the shelter. “I tried to stay off the street, from sleeping outside, try to connect with resources…Sometimes it would hurt, but being a volunteer made it better.”
Philip was eventually selected from the city’s wait list for participation in a two year transitional housing program. While he had applied for a unit in a senior citizen residence in Rogers Park, he ended up getting placed across town in an unfamiliar neighborhood. During that time, he was always on the lookout for eligible buildings he could apply for when his time was up. Many people are unable to find permanent housing before their transitional contract comes to an end, putting them back on the streets. Luckily, his Case Manager, Mike was able to not only extend his deadline by a month, but got him placed into the exact building he’d had his eye on for years. He did so by helping Philip petition the building itself, as well as the management company, even exploring several backup options in case his dream home didn’t work out.
Philip has a great deal of gratitude for all of Mike’s help, from ensuring there were no gaps in his housing, to connecting him with the resources he needed, and even helping him move into his new apartment. When asked what the most helpful thing was, his answer is simple: “Everything.”
However, Mike believes Philip’s success had a lot to do with his persistence. “Sometimes it’s people and having to get on them and pursue them, but it was the opposite. [Philip] was calling me, ‘So when’s that meeting? Is there anything I need?’, etcetera”, he says. “If the participant is engaged it makes the process easier and a lot more successful.”
Philip says he wakes up every morning thankful for where he is today, including his gorgeous new view overlooking Lake Michigan. He describes sitting in his home, saying he is calm on the outside, but on the inside he says he is “doing somersaults and back flips…I’m where I wanna be.”