Housing Opportunities For Women Breaks Poverty Cycle

The important work done by Chicago-based organization is best understood by imagining yourself as a mother coming out of an abusive relationship.

Imagine choosing between:

  1. Living and raising your children in the same home, in a safe neighborhood, within a community that understands your needs and supports you and your children; or
  2. Shuttling between homeless shelters, temporary housing, soup kitchens and various state aid offices while raising kids and trying to heal yourself.

Scenario #1 is the Housing Opportunities for Women model.  Unfortunately, scenario #2 is the state-supported social service norm. So, it’s easy to understand just how wonderful a resource HOW is for otherwise homeless and struggling women, and why it is far more effective at breaking the cycle of poverty and abuse in families — and, ultimately, saving tax dollars.

More lives are made better per taxpayer dollar spent through HOW than through most other social service programs funded by the state. Furthermore, a growing group of private individuals work hard and donate generously to support HOW too; many of them will be participating in the HOW gala on June 9 at the Field Museum.

A recent tour with HOW CEO Britt Shawver of one of the three apartment facilities with 38 units that HOW owns and operates (HOW leases another 330 units for a total of almost 370 units) on Chicago’s North Side showcase a success story. Stained glass windows — a gift from an artistic board member — decorate the front entry. We climb to the top floor apartment of Lady Smith (not her real name) and her two children.

Smith escaped a violent marriage to find security, comprehensive social service, job placement success, friendship and a real home in the renovated apartment building through HOW. She grins broadly as she shows us her apartment. Sunlight streams through living room bay windows. The dining room doubles as a study space for her two children.

Smith remarks on how much she enjoys sitting on the small back porch off the kitchen in good weather and knowing that her children – ages four and six– are safe and happy as they roam the six-unit apartment building to play with friends or hang out in the basement rec room with stimulating décor, games and activites. Smith also compliments the local public school her children attend.

Chicagoland needs more HOW opportunities and success stories like Smith. HOW and its supporters include many North Shore residents, including Board President Jim Fox of Evanston, board member Sylvie Legere of Wilmette and leadership council members Laura Ricketts of Wilmette and Mary Dillon of Evanston. They are making the world better one woman and one family at a time.

Visit their website: how-inc.org

Photo Credit: Kathy Richlard

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