You may have read a recent article in the Chicago SunTimes about Rodney Dawkins, an Inspiration Corporation Employment Project graduate and one of the part-time millieu managers at Inspiration Cafe. His story is not  unlike so many others in Chicago, and highlights statistics the reality of poverty in the City and Illinois overall.

“I found those to be startling statistics”, said Rodney, a lifelong Chicagoan who still struggles to find more work. According to a report released last week, one in three Illinoisans is living at or near poverty level, just like Rodney. In 2000, this figure was one in four, evidence that this trend has seen a steady and unsettling increase. And, nearly half of Chicagoans are now living at this level as well.

Rodney Dawkins outside his Lakeview home (photo by Andrew A. Nelles)

For Rodney, this could be a source of discouragement. Yet, while he still lives in subsidized housing and earns just enough to make ends meet, he’s fighting to help others who find themselves in the same situation. He’s slated to be one of the co-chairs of the steering committee at the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council’s Advisory Board. He served as a local co-chair for a few years, and has spoken at local events and panel discussions on everyday issues regarding healthcare for the homeless, particularly those that affect the elderly. He’ll be part of a workshop this March in Washington D.C. at the council’s annual conference, talking about ways to build and retain an advisory board.

Rodney continues to look for more work, and while it’s difficult to pay the bills, he remains optimistic about what he can accomplish. Not only is he speaking alongside political and academic leaders in the healthcare-for-homeless field, he’s trying to organize rallies in Springfield and Washington to raise awareness and educate others about the options available. We hope his work, and the work of others like him, can help begin to reverse these trends in poverty in Illinois.