Dear friends and supporters,

I am writing to let you know about a decision that our Board and senior staff have had to make regarding the Living Room Cafe. I wish that I was writing to share better news.

Since December 2013 when the effects of the Federal sequester began to impact government funding, Inspiration Corporation has lost $186,613 in government grants to support our meals and supportive services programs. Over time, and primarily due to loss of funding to provide basic case management services to participants, programming at the Living Room Cafe drifted away from our organization’s mission to provide meals as a supportive service to individuals working on goals of improving quality of life and attaining self-sufficiency.

With deep sadness and a very heavy heart, I want to share that we are not able to sustain the costs of operating the meals program at the Living Room Cafe beyond December 2015. We will serve our last meal at the Living Room Cafe on December 2, 2015, and our last day for drop-in case management services will be December 10, 2015.

We will continue to provide services in the Woodlawn community, and the surrounding community areas through our housing and workforce development programs. Our staff is working to complete a transition for services by December 10 for anyone not enrolled in those programs. We will continue to have offices on the south side and want to stay in the Woodlawn community or the nearby communities.

Why We Made This Decision

In fiscal year 2014, following funding cuts, meal attendance began to decline at both the Living Room Cafe (32% decrease from previous year) and Inspiration Cafe (24% decrease from previous year). At the Living Room Cafe, we conducted a survey of program participants and community residents attending meals. The results of the survey revealed that meals were attended primarily by low-income members of the community that were not interested in participating in other services offered by the Living Room Cafe and Inspiration Corporation.

In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Inspiration Corporation staff implemented strategies to increase program participants’ attendance at meals at both cafes. At the Living Room Cafe, we targeted outreach to participants in our housing and workforce development programs and who live on Chicago’s south side. We have not been able to increase program participants’ attendance at meals, and meals are primarily attended by community residents who are not interested in participating in our other programs and services. In fiscal year 2015, overall meal attendance at the Living Room Cafe decreased another 32% while meal attendance at Inspiration Cafe increased by 40%.

With our limited financial resources, we want to make sure that we are focusing on services that help participants achieve their goals and increase self-sufficiency. Without funding to provide the basic case management that comprised our Supportive Services program prior to December 2013, we are significantly challenged in reconciling the impact of the meals program at the Living Room Cafe with our agency’s mission. Through our housing and workforce development programs, we are better able to help south side residents re-gain and maintain stability. We are committed, and will continue, to offer and provide these services to residents living in Chicago’s south side communities. We will also continue offering meals at the Inspiration Cafe in Uptown, and plan to redirect resources to increasing outcomes for that program.

We have reached out to other nonprofits in the Woodlawn area to see if they would partner with us or had an interest in running the meals program at the Living Room Cafe, but our efforts were not successful. We remain open to talking with other agencies that are interested in taking over the program, understanding that while the meals program at the Living Room Cafe no longer coincides with our organization’s mission, it continues to provide a needed service to the working poor and low-income residents of that community.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions about how the closure of The Living Room Cafe will impact our work.

We remain, as always, thankful for the community’s amazing support of the individuals and families who walk through our doors,