On any given night, half a million people are homeless in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The reasons for homelessness are varied, but for many low-income individuals and families, it's often a job loss, health problems or a domestic conflict that leaves them having to deal with the threat of homelessness or fending for themselves on the streets.
Connections for the Homeless, an Evanston, Illinois-based organization, partners with Interfaith Action of Evanston to meet people where they are in the spectrum of homelessness and help them move towards self-sufficiency. Founded in 1984, when a collection of faith communities banded together to create an overnight shelter in the basement of the Lake Street Church, Connections has transformed into a multiservice agency with education, employment, health and housing programs serving 31 communities throughout northern Cook County.
One of their most effective programs is Hilda's Place, a transitional shelter that provides men and women without a home with wrap-around support services, including temporary shelter, case management, help in securing government subsidies to support permanent housing and job-readiness training. In addition, the drop-in center at Hilda's Place provides a welcoming environment where homeless individuals can come to shower; do laundry; eat; receive clothing, medical and health care; and meet with counselors to develop a plan to move forward. During the 2016 fiscal year, 104 individuals took refuge at Hilda's Place and 344 individuals received services on the street or in the shelter's drop-in center.
"Interfaith Action of Evanston runs a hospitality center that our clients can go to when Connections is not open, and staff there supports visitors in their work to achieve the goals they set with their Connections case managers," said Sue Loellbach, Director of Development. "This enables us to provide more comprehensive services and a model of support where individuals struggling with homelessness can come to build hope and confidence that they can find a better life."