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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winners: Illinois

Best Practice: Deborah’s Place II Apartments

Housing Complex Provides Shelter for Homeless Women

Chicago, Illinois. Deborah’s Place II Apartments, a 39-unit permanent-housing complex, provides affordable housing and a variety of other human services for the homeless women of Chicago. The apartments fill an important need for affordable housing in the city, because housing for low-income and homeless individuals is disappearing due to demolition or conversion to high-rent apartments.

The homeless women who live at Deborah’s Place II suffer from mental, emotional or physical disabilities. Many have a history of physical or sexual abuse and are likely to report chronic health problems such as high

Photo of Patricia Crowley receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Patricia Crowley receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Many have a history of alcohol or substance abuse and have found it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain housing of their own.

The residents are desperately in need of the services that Deborah’s Place II provides. FY99 statistics reveal that 39 percent of the residents have no income and 47 percent earn between $1 and $500 per month. Minority populations are the ones who mostly use the services. During 1999, 77 percent of the residents were African-American, 19 percent were Caucasian and 2 percent were Hispanic.

To help residents combat disabilities, unemployment, substance abuse, chronic health problems and the other issues, Deborah’s Place II works with Northwestern Memorial Hospital, St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital and other medical centers to provide a full range of medical and counseling services. Modeled after Washington Square in Newport, New Jersey, the apartments and health program were made possible with funding from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant, the city of Chicago’s Department of Human Services, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Supportive Housing Program. Deborah’s Place II provides homeless women with housing and the necessary resources to help them maintain that housing. It completes the Deborah’s Place II one-stop continuum of care for a population of homeless women who have been unable to secure and maintain income, housing, physical and mental health services and a stable support network. For many of the homeless women, their primary relationships have been with volunteers, staff and other women who reside in the emergency shelter. Residents at this site not only receive supportive services, but they also have ready access to the community in which they feel at home.

Contact: Patricia Crowley, Phone: (773) 292-0707
Tracking Number: 810
Winning Category: Program (Community Planning and Development)

Best Practice: Mid-America Leader Foundation's Community and Economic Development Program

Matched Savings Accounts Teach Families the Value of Saving

Chicago, Illinois. Before Mid-America Leadership Foundation’s (MLF) Community and Economic Development Program, participating low-income families never thought twice about spending money on tennis shoes, manicures and eating out. Now that money goes into Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to buy homes, start businesses and pursue post-secondary education.

Statistics indicate that 38 percent of all lower-income Chicago households, compared to 16 percent of all households, lack a checking account. The 1990 census information for the Cabrini-Green housing

Photo of Erica Chang receiving Best of the Best award
Erica Chang (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

complex indicates that 90 percent of households lack an employed adult; 85 percent are female headed and the average annual income is $4,000. These numbers show that programs promoting self-sufficiency are sorely needed for inner-city Chicago residents. In addition, with the demolition of low-income housing units in the Cabrini-Green developments where 7,000 residents live in 23 high rises, residents need the tools that will enable them to pursue other housing options—specifically, homeownership. Helping IDA participants become homeowners is one of the goals of the MLF program.

MLF developed a program to address the factors that would assist participants in becoming self-reliant. Chicago banks match participants’ savings dollar–for-dollar up to $600 a year for three years. Participants qualify through any of the following three ways: 1) they receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and earn income, 2) they qualify for the Earned Income Credit or hold $10,000 or less in assets, excluding a home or car or 3) their household income is 60 percent less than the area median income.

Participants must complete a financial literacy course before they can access the funds. The course covers topics such as capitalism, materialism, values and power, family financial security, debt management, insurance

basics, and investing and giving back. To complete the course, participants must pass two quizzes, a final exam and attend 10 of 12 sessions.

MLF provides mentors to those interested in starting their own businesses. In addition, the program assists participants in developing the skills necessary to find and keep a job through the Work Readiness Index designed by the Denver Workforce Initiative. Staff administers the index in which participants are assessed and provided feedback about their strengths and weaknesses. The individualized feedback can be discussed with a “coach.” MLF has also developed the Power of Faith Partnership (PFP), which brings together the faith sector to provide customized job training and work readiness training, job placement and holistic support services.

Many partners have contributed to the MLF program’s success. Retired business professionals develop and lead financial literacy courses. Ariel Mutual Investment Company created an investment tool that would allow Cabrini Green public housing residents to access mutual funds and the stock market. Other partners include American Express Financial Advisors, Community Bank of Lawndale, Wayman AME Church and the Illinois Department of Human Services.

While gaining the trust of participants, many of whom would rather put their money under the mattress than in an institution, is difficult, the program has flourished. With 54 IDAs open, $10,544.28 saved since May 1999, nine participants pursuing a GED or college and three participants securing a job upgrade, the MLF program is making a difference in people’s lives. Says one participant: “I joined this program because I wanted to establish something good in my life. I wanted to learn how to save and I couldn’t do that before this program. This is a good program and if I can save anybody can. That’s the truth!”

The program has also given participants hope, says another participant. “This program gives me the motivation to save and think in the long-term. I’m building for the future.”

Contact: Gary Nederveld, Phone: (312) 427-2017
Tracking Number: 2111
Winning Category: Program (Community Builder)


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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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