Antoinette grew up in Hyde Park in a relatively affluent family. “I didn’t want for anything,” she says. Her two children are “A” students at Perspectives Charter School; the oldest hopes to attend University of Illinois in the fall.
Three years ago, Antoinette was laid off from her job as a station manager for a bus company, having moved up the ladder with the organization. She decided to turn that difficulty into an opportunity and finish her bachelor’s degree using her savings and unemployment benefits.
After graduating, Antoinette struggled to find steady employment. She went back to driving a school bus on temporary contracts. At the same time, a medical issue added another difficulty, causing her to miss work and stall her career search. Her health issues were becoming a problem, and her savings were running out.
In late 2011, the hammer dropped. Antoinette faced eviction. She sent her two children to move in with friends while she stayed with a friend and searched for a place for her family to live. She was separated from them for two months while navigating the network of social services agencies that provide housing. Eventually she was accepted into a family shelter program where she and her children could live together. She went to The Living Room Cafe to put herself on Inspiration Corporation’s permanent supportive housing waitlist. Due to the lack of affordable housing, people can wait on the list for many years.
“The shelter was the hardest part of the experience,” she says. “I learned a lot about me.”
Other supportive housing programs wouldn’t accept Antoinette because her income from temporary work was not stable enough to cover her part of subsidized rent. The public assistance her family receives is sufficient for Inspiration Corporation’s program.
Inspiration Corporation not only works to get people out of shelters and into a real home, but helps provide supportive services like meals and employment training, to put people like Antoinette on a path to self-sufficiency and keep families housed. Nearly 90% of those households we serve are still permanently housed two years later.
In 2012, Inspiration Corporation opened up its first family housing site at 5840 S. King Drive. The building has eight large units suitable for families – the type of apartments in desperately short supply. Antoinette was at the top of the list of candidates, due to her family size, health, and time in the shelter.
After a year of experiencing temporary homelessness, Antoinette is positive about her family’s chance to move forward. She is applying for jobs and finishing her last few classes to earn her master’s degree in human resources from Keller School of Management. While discouraged about how difficult it is to find work, she feels good about her family’s stability and the chance for a brighter future.
“I felt like a black cloud was over me,” she says. “Now it’s my time to shine.”