Exodus: Movement of Our People!
Time for a little change in direction. Three of my latest posts have focused on the victimization of the homeless. The brutal murder of one of our men (Murdered While Homeless), the unfair and discriminatory ratio that lingers in Chicago regarding marijuana arrests (The Exception to The Rule!) and how Obama's birthday party affected many of our residents (Disillusioned Dreams and the President's Party)!
This story's focus is completely and utterly different. I get tired of a few of my neighbors love affair with calling our little stretch of pavement "blood alley", because if people actually stopped, observed and stood still for a moment, they'd see a very different reality; HOPE! As a reaction to this ongoing label, I've already written a wee piece on that called: Hope Alley: The Redemption of "blood" alley.
This story is also about that 4 letter word HOPE. Hope is something that never ceases to spring up in Clifton Avenue! Sometimes, it simply surrounds us causing incurable smiles to splatter the pavement of Hope Alley. This past week has been one of those blessed times...
Movement happened and movement is good!
Despite the assumptions that our homeless men live in a stagnant quagmire, our men's programs always have steady movement. We average anywhere from 6 to 12 successful transitions from homelessness to permanent housing per month. These numbers are excellent, especially while living in this modern economic disaster, where unemployment rates in Chicago are steadily increasing, especially amongst the poor and minorities!
In this past week, there was an exodus; we witnessed 12 successful movements of our people. There may have been more, some I personally didn't know about, but I DO know of 12. Such a number causes a smile to creep over my face. Such a number is contagious, as it motivates others. Such a number provides HOPE!
Now it's time to put on my mathematical brain and work on some numbers...
Of these 12 people, 6 are men and 6 are women. 2 moved to Wisconsin, 4 are now living on the Southside and the remaining 6 will be here on the Northside, in or around Uptown. They went to a variety of different accommodations; some are paying market rent, others got a subsidy and a couple received a great deal, by getting full-time employment and their own apartment at the same time.
This group is represented by a few different races, cultures and ages. Some were homeless for only a month, while others have struggled with it for years. 6 came to CCO without work, and were able to leave employed earning an income. The remaining 6 have various disabilities and receive SSI. 3 of these clients started receiving their benefits while staying with us. Though we may see all these differences and timeframes, this group has one remarkable similarity, I can vouch that every one of these men and women worked extremely hard to get where they are today. It is always a tough road to climb and overcome the many obstacles of moving from homelessness to the self-sufficiency of their own places. That is why I am writing this, because I want to acknowledge and congratulate this wonderful group of 12 human beings.
I am not going to get into the details of all their stories, that would take too long, but I want to leave us with these attached photos; they are simply and proudly holding their keys and leases, providing us with stories of remarkable hope and inspiration!
The story of Hope upon the street full of homeless men, women and families does not end there. It continues! As the end of the week approached, one of the mother's from our family program told me, she will be moving this coming week. She is legally blind and all of her 5 children have a lot of special needs; both physical and psychological. She and her family are very excited and anxiously awaiting their move. That same day, I heard from another family, they have a new-born baby and 2 older children; they will also be moving this coming week.
I am going to finish with a story of a chronically homeless individual. "Chief' is Native American and has been homeless for 37 years. He is only 50. His homeless journey started when his mom died, I knew Chief's real name was on the 100K list; (a national program that helps chronically homeless individuals get quickly into housing). But Chief is extremely hard to find, as he doesn't stay at CCO or visit shelters, he sleeps outside. He doesn't like to bother people. This week, I just happened bump into him as he sat in an alley, so I make a phone call to one the 100K outreach workers and set up an all-important meeting.
On Tuesday afternoon, the outreach worker and I sat in a little Uptown diner chatting with Chief. He told us stories, showed us his many horrific scars from knives, bullets and blunt objects, we lamented over lost homeless friends and his need to get off these bloody streets. It's only by God's grace, this man is still alive and we could sit and talk to this street survivor. Despite all his tales of woe and repeatedly being a victim of senseless violence, this man is incredibly grateful for each day God gives him. His positive outlook challenged any negative disposition I was feeling that day. A vital connection was made, movement started, hope has risen again, and one day, Chief will also have a safe place to call his own.