Women's shelter hosts winter walk, expands services

Women's shelter hosts winter walk, expands services

It’s not an easy time to try to help the homeless. With the economy still doing poorly and state and local funding drying up, most shelters and service providers are struggling to keep their doors open. But Sarah’s Circle, an agency that aids homeless women in the Uptown community, has found ways to expand.

When a nearby shelter, R.E.S.T., recently had to close its doors after financial collapse, Sarah’s Circle decided to take on their 50-bed interim housing program for women. Next weekend, they’ll be raising money to support this and other programs that help women on the margins try to get back to a normal life. With its annual Winter Walk, people will be invited to walk through the neighborhood and see it the way a homeless person might, stopping along the way to hear stories from women who’ve lived that life.

“Most of the women in this program have been homeless for years,” said Kathy Ragnar, executive director of Sarah’s Circle. “In fact, 95 percent have mental illnesses and 85 percent are chronically homeless.”

The interim housing program provides constant support for the women it houses, giving them access to health care and case management, with the goal of getting them back on their feet.

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless recently put out an alert on its website, saying that the agency is concerned that in 2013 budget, money for homeless prevention might be eliminated entirely. During the 11 years it has existed, the coalition says homeless prevention funds have kept 96,231 Illinois families off the streets. The program took a serious hit in the 2012 budget, funded at only 13 percent of its 2008 level. But this week, Illinois legislators put back $1.4 million into the program this week.

“We were making sure it was getting maintained, not cut out completely,” said state Sen. Heather Steans.

Sarah’s Circle’s annual Winter Walk will be held Sunday, Jan. 29 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The walk starts at the agency’s home at 4750 N. Sheridan Road and concludes at St. Augustine College at 1345 W. Argyle St. Participants can sign up ahead of time to take pledges to the organization or also make a donation on the nonprofit’s website.

Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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