Success Stories

It Takes More Than Housing to End Homelessness

Thomas opening the door to his new studio apartment at the Montclare in Lawndale.

During December 2023, CHI placed three people in housing, taking them out of crisis situations and into an opportunity to move forward in safety and warmth.

But it isn’t simple.

Thomas G.’s story shows just how crazy complicated it is.

Thomas had been living on the streets of our city for nearly 15 years. Just after Thanksgiving, we were able to move him into the Montclare Supportive Living Community in Lawndale, which caters to low-income seniors. It was a joyful moment when Thomas took the key and opened the door for the first time to his new home.

It’s a far cry from where Thomas was just a year ago, when he started showing up for meals at our New FoundatIons partner, St. Paul’s. For years, Thomas had been sleeping out in the open, on the ‘L’ train or, during colder months, in hospital emergency waiting rooms. A slender, affable man with a sunny disposition and a deep faith in a higher power, he told us he had no family, no friends who could help him, no job and, at the age of 71, no chance anyone would hire him.

Week after week, CHI social workers Gwen and Sarah took the time to help Thomas put the pieces in place he needed to finally get off the streets.

We helped him apply for Medicaid.

We got him, and kept him, on the housing lists.

We made dozens of calls looking for openings for him.

We got him warm clothes.

We set up and took him to the mandatory doctor’s appointment.

We secured him a government phone.

We got him a bus pass so no matter where he went, he could continue to frequent the meals where his friends eat as well.

We helped him apply for food stamps.

Then, Sarah took him down to the social security office and secured the SSI benefits that, as a senior citizen, he was entitled to. He even discovered he was owed several thousand dollars in back pay from a long-ago employer. We were able to get him that check, too.

And we took him on a tour of the proposed unit at the Montclare so he could see it for himself.

What Gwen and Sarah did, most importantly, was to build a real relationship of trust and dependability with Thomas. That, too, takes time and patience.

Thomas’ story has a happy outcome. But, please consider the time invested to move one at-risk senior off the streets and into a residence: Two dedicated people worked with him for an entire year!

Ending homelessness for even one individual like Thomas takes a dedicated and knowledgable team. And the patience and determination to navigate the often Byzantine applications, processes, and contradictory requirements just to get in line.

Today, we assist individuals like Thomas in eight locations around the City. On the South Side, the West Side and downtown. We need to continue and expand this work in all of those locations.

We hope you’ll help us do that. Your support is so very needed! Your generous donation of any amount will allow our team and volunteers to carry on with the vital work they do to help end homelessness in our City.

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Did you know?


of the people we serve are military service veterans.

They help us with food, social services. Nothing but love, that’s how I feel about the Chicago Help Initiative.”