By Olivia Baginski and Melah Lofton | @RedLineProject | Posted: Monday, Dec. 16, 2019
Four months ago, Tish Garrison, 39, was working cleaning houses. However, her job suffered budget cuts and she was let go. Not being able to afford rent after her last check, her home was not too far behind.
Since then, she has had to rely on the streets of Chicago for survival. Sleeping in alleys or on street corners, Garrison stays away from shelters due to overcrowding, safety issues, and the presence of drugs and alcohol within the facilities.
“I’m in recovery myself, I’m a year and a half clean. It’s been a long journey and it’s something I never wanna go back tom,” Garrison said.
Although she does not have much, it has not stopped her from giving to others. Garrison has received clothing, food and other items that she cannot keep with her. So she packs up what she doesn’t need and gives it to other homeless people in the area.
“Unfortunately, there are resources, but not enough” Garrison said. “There’s just so many homeless people.”
According to data from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), as of 2017 86,324 Chicagoans were homeless, including youth, students, mothers, fathers, LGBTQ and others. 20,779 of that total were minor children. The number of unaccompanied homeless youth is 15,744.
These conditions force these individuals into housing that may not provide enough resources. This can include employment, food, sanitation products, and so forth. As a community, it is raising awareness, helping organizations, and programs that will assist these individuals the most.
Ashley Novoa leads the Chicago Period Project, a non-profit organization that teams with schools and other organizations to provide materials for homeless women and girls who menstruate.
Such items include pads, tampons, hand sanitizers and underwear. The organization believes in aiding these individuals who cannot afford a lifetime cost of $1,700 worth of these hygiene products.
Novoa got the idea from a video she found on Facebook of an account following a homeless woman’s day-to-day while she experienced her period and went through unhygienic aids on her own to maintain a period.
“It was a moment where I felt pretty embarrassed that I never thought about that being a particular struggle, with me being a woman that menstruates every single month,” Novoa said.
The organization started off with just friends chipping in money to her drive, totaling to $3,000 at first, until Novoa realized she wanted the Chicago Period Project to become a full-time job. She realized the impact and opportunity she had, and Novoa began to build her organization.
The Chicago Period Project has donated thousands of kits to local Chicago communities including public schools for low-income youth, and major shelters within the city. The organization has also partnered with UI Health Hospital, and Always to support their mission.
Moreover, another organization dedicated in assisting homelessness in Chicago is LUCHA, which offers counseling, sustainable housing, and lawyers for advice if a persons’ current housing situation is at risk.
LUCHA was born out of a riot 37 years ago. Their goal was to create housing for individuals who need it in the Chicago area, specifically in Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and West Town communities. Today, the organization owns 198 units of affordable housing.
Google Trends: Searches on Chicago homelessness
What makes LUCHA unique is that the housing they are building is becoming sustainable. Their goal is to acquire property and maintain its affordability.
The 606 was once the Bloomingdale Line of transportation that has been renovated for walkers and bikers. The trail divides Humboldt Park and Lincoln Park. However, due to its aesthetic an increased amount of gentrification has occurred.
Lisette Castaneda, the Interim Executive Director for LUCHA, said that for areas around The 606, housing taxes have increased by 47 percent. Houses in the area, a community unique to Latinx history and culture, is quickly creating issues arising with gentrification and remodels.
LUCHA wants to purchase housing in neighborhoods where residents can feel as though they are one with the community and not just labelled as homeless.
Lisette talked about the backlash her organization has faced. Residents are neighbors with occupants who are receiving aid, which leads to problems.
“We have various points at which the community at large can engage with our work, and are currently in the spectrum from rental to home ownership,” Lisette said. “We certainly don’t want our houses to stick out, but in a way where they are apart of the neighborhood and community.”
How to Help
Homelessness is a problem society cannot continue to ignore. There are thousands of people in Chicago and well as throughout the United States who have to wonder where they will sleep the next evening or when they will have their next meal.
You can help shed light on this issue and bring about change. Here are a few ways how:
If you are interested in donating to a local shelter, please call first and ask what items they may need the most at the time.
To contact the Chicago Period Project, visit its website.
To contact LUCHA, visit its website.
If you or someone you know is in need of a shelter, call “311” or (312) 744-5000. Tell the operator that you are in need of a shelter.
If you are concerned about losing your home, tell the operator you need “short term help.” Then, you will be transferred to the Homelessness Prevention Call Center. The center has services available in multiple languages.
Callers with hearing problems can access TTY equipment at (312) 948-6817.
Return to The Red Line Project
Feedback: Contact the reporter via Twitter or leave a comment below.