Home is where the heart is: a sentiment that holds true for these amazing nonprofit organizations that are committed to improving the lives of poor, low-income, and homeless individuals and families in Chicago. Whether it’s providing a safe environment for victims of domestic violence, giving people the tools and information they need to make better financial choices for their future, or just simply being there for someone when they have no one else to turn to, these organizations truly are making it better for those less fortunate around them. Continue reading to find out how you can help these nonprofits put a little heart into the homes of others.
A Safe Haven Foundation
Husband and wife duo Neli Vazquez-Rowland and Brian Rowland, both working in the financial industry, seemed to be thriving. But Brian soon found himself battling alcohol addiction, which led to the couple seeking out resources for those in recovery. In the early 1990s, the duo began investing in real estate, first renting a building in Logan Square to help people who are recovering from addiction. Due to the success of the Logan Square project, in 1994, the Rowlands founded A Safe Haven Foundation.
The organization has grown and flourished exponentially since then. Now with more than 180 employees and an annual budget of $20 million , A Safe Haven provides housing for individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by addiction. A Make It Better Philanthropy Awards winner  and a Warming Hearts & Hands  recipient, A Safe Haven has served more than 65,000 people . Additionally, the foundation supports military veterans, as well as those discharged from local jails and prisons.
For more information about the services A Safe Haven offers, visit asafehaven.org .
A Safe Place
Did you know that the leading cause of injury to women is domestic violence ? With the mission of ending domestic violence in northern Illinois, A Safe Place is Lake County’s resource for assisting victims. Not only does the organization provide housing for survivors, but they also offer counseling programs to women and their children. A Safe Place also has a 24-hour help line (847-249-4450) that offers immediate support to survivors.
Offering both individual and group counseling, A Safe Place gives women options and resources to share their experiences and set goals for themselves. Children’s counselors provide children who are witnesses of domestic violence an outlet to deal with their experiences and feelings. Group activities to zoos and museums allow children to interact with others in a safe, fun environment.
To learn more about A Safe Place and to find out how to donate or volunteer, visit asafeplaceforhelp.org .
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago
Created as a central Catholic charity in Chicago in 1917, Catholic Charities has grown to become one of the largest agencies in the Midwest, helping more than 1 million people each year . Ninety-two cents of each dollar donated  goes directly to support the programs Catholic Charities offers. With 164 locations and 150 programs , the organization has a staff of more than 3,000 people , with more than 15,000 volunteers .
The Housing Service Area provides safe and affordable housing for individuals and families. With emergency shelters, transitional and permanent housing, senior residences, housing for those with disabilities, and one nursing home, Catholic Charities provides safe and supportive communities for people throughout Chicago and its suburbs.
To learn more about Catholic Charities and how you can get involved in its mission, visit catholiccharities.net .
Center for Independent Futures
When Kay Branz and Jane Doyle were both raising daughters with developmental disabilities, they were faced with the challenge of ensuring their daughters were ready for the world beyond high school. They soon found that support for individuals with disabilities was severely lacking. In 2002, the two women founded Center for Independent Futures in Evanston.
Searching for solutions to enable those with disabilities to live a life full of opportunities, the organization emphasizes choice and encourages responsibility. The New Futures Initiative  helps families find housing solutions for their loved ones with disabilities.
To discover volunteer opportunities and learn more about the Center for Independent Futures, visit independentfutures.com .
Deborah’s Place is all about opportunity. By providing women with supportive housing and services, they help women heal, set and achieve goals and move on from the experience of homelessness.
Deborah’s Place has three different programs for homeless women. Their permanent housing program provides a supportive environment for women in three different apartment buildings throughout the city. The buildings are staffed 24/7 and many of the units in the permanent housing developments are designated for women with disabilities. Their interim housing program can accommodate up to 10 women for 120 days as the women work with staff members to set and meet goals toward finding stable employment, housing, health and family relations. Lastly, the Safe Haven at Deborah’s Place provides a supportive environment for women with severe mental illness who have been chronically homeless in an effort to increase their quality of life.
To learn more about Deborah’s Place and how you can help, visit deborahsplace.org .
At Haymarket, “hope starts here.” Since its founding in 1975, Haymarket has become the largest nonprofit outpatient substance abuse treatment facility  in the Chicago area. The organization’s founders, the late Monsignor Ignatius McDermott and Dr. James West, understood addiction as a disease, advocating for treatment rather than legal penalties.
An initial assessment appointment determines the treatment the individual needs. From there, the patient is assigned a Case Manager, who will track his or her progress throughout the treatment process. Haymarket offers a variety of other services, including intensive outpatients programs, criminal justice programs and recovery homes.
To learn more about Haymarket and the programs and treatment options they offer, visit hcenter.org .
Did you know that one in every three  Illinois residents is poor or low-income? This, and other issues like housing, healthcare and social justice, are the four pillars upon which Heartland Alliance is built. As one of the world’s leading anti-poverty organizations, their mission is to advance human rights and respond to human needs of endangered populations by providing appropriate services and promoting permanent solutions that will lead to a more just global society.
Heartland Alliance  believes that “poverty isn’t just about being poor, it’s about being stuck.” By providing services such as quality and affordable housing, primary, dental and mental healthcare, basic education and job-readiness courses, legal aid, and refugee resettlement and counseling, they give people a safe place to turn to when they have no other options.
To learn more about Heartland Alliance, visit heartlandalliance.org .
H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly)
Could you imagine living in the city of Chicago on a monthly income of $733 ? That’s how much the elderly receive in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income each month. Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Chicago’s low-income elderly, helping seniors remain independent and ensuring that they continue to be a part of their community by providing a variety of housing support services.
Some of the programs offered by H.O.M.E. include home upkeep and repair to make sure that seniors enjoy safe living conditions, a shopping bus to assist seniors experiencing limited mobility, intergenerational affordable housing for both independent seniors and those who need some assistance, and a moving program that offers seniors support and assistance while moving from one home to another.
During the 2014-2015 school year, 125,848 Chicagoans were homeless and 20,205 Chicago Public Schools students were homeless . “We believe housing is a human right in a just society,” says the mission statement of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), and since 1980 they have been advocating for public policies that can help and ultimately end homelessness.
The CCH works in key areas like community organizing advocacy and public policy, where they train homeless people to advocate on key issues and develop affordable housing and improve the supply of living wage jobs. CCH also works with The Law Project , which offers no-charge legal aid services that support community development efforts led by those that generally do not have the resources to pay for legal aid. The CCH does not accept government funding and therefore advocates for most of its funds in addition to receiving help from a variety of foundations including The Chicago Community Trust  and The Chicago Bar Foundation .
To donate to the CCH or learn more about their services, visit chicagohomeless.org .
HOW (Housing Opportunities for Women)
“Housing is a right, not a privilege.” This is at the core of HOW’s values. Since its founding in 1983, HOW has made strides empowering women, children and families. To break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, the organization offers supportive housing, prevention strategies and individual support services. Using the Housing First model, HOW first finds housing for individuals and then provides tools for them to succeed.
HOW manages 374 apartments and houses more than 400 children . Among the programs HOW offers are wellness services and children and youth services. Families are given the tools they need to navigate the healthcare system, while learning how to shop and cook on a budget. Over the summer, the organization provided a program for teens that exposed them to arts, culture and theater. HOW also provides support groups where women can share their experiences and stories.
To learn more about HOW and get involved, visit how-inc.org .
LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) Chicago
Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become a stronger and healthier part of the community. Active in nearly half of the city’s community areas, LISC  provides support to more than 70 organizations in areas such as economic development, housing, education, community networking and safety. In 2014, more than 42,000 individuals were reached by LISC-programming  in the supported neighborhoods and communities.
To learn more about LISC, visit lisc-chicago.org .
LYDIA Home Association
In 1913, the Ladies’ Aid Society at Salem Evangelical Free Church in Chicago saw the needs of children in orphanages and began to sew clothing for them. This inspired them to open their own orphanage. Over the past hundred years, LYDIA has expanded its services to take care of children who are victims of neglect and abuse. LYDIA sees a world in which every child is cared for and loved. The organization works to make this vision a reality.
A few of the programs LYDIA offers include foster care, residential treatment, Learn & Care Preschool , LYDIA Urban Academy , and counseling services. The organization works to empower each child, jump-starting their successes.
For more information about LYDIA Home Association and how you can support the organization, visit lydiahome.org .
Mercy Home for Boys and Girls is a Catholic organization that has been committed to breaking the cycle of neglect and abuse for more than 30,000 children since its start in 1887. Originally serving as a refuge for homeless boys that crowded the city’s streets, Mercy Home has since expanded into a haven for more than 200 boys and girls in their West Loop and South Side campuses. The treatment homes at Mercy provide children, ages 9-21, with a safe and nurturing environment where they can receive the necessary support and mentoring needed to turn their lives around and have successful futures.
To learn more about Mercy Home and ways in which you can help, visit mercyhome.org .
Imagine a world where poverty doesn’t exist and all people have the resources and opportunities to develop their full potential. This is the goal Mercy Housing is working toward. The organization holds respect, justice and mercy at the heart of its core values, while striving to create a humane environment that encourages diversity.
Mercy Housing believes the most valuable gift you can give a family is a safe home where they have the resources to succeed. More than 70 percent  of the organization’s residents are families. Mercy Housing Resident Services aids families by providing educational programs to children and offering family support services.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 3.5 million people who are age 65 and older  live below the poverty threshold. Twenty-one percent  of the people Mercy Housing supports are seniors. The organization works to improve the quality of life through offering services that encourage community engagement while providing affordable housing.
To learn more about Mercy Housing and how you can contribute, visit mercyhousing.org .
Neighborhood Housing Services
Founded in 1975, Neighborhood Housing Services supports neighborhoods throughout Chicago, South Suburban Cook County and Elgin. Since its inception, NHS has served more than 219,000 families  while creating new homeowners and providing education to potential new homebuyers. By investing in neighborhoods across Chicago, NHS has created communities where residents can thrive.
NHS works to revitalize neighborhoods through partnerships with insurance companies, financial institutions and neighborhood residents. The organization helps clients buy, fix, or keep a home by providing foreclosure intervention counseling. NHS is funded due to support from donors, government and fees from some of their services.
For more information on Neighborhood Housing Services and to learn how you can help, visit nhschicago.org .
When concern about the impacts of loneliness, despair, substance abuse and homelessness caught the attention of a group of people from various congregations of diverse faiths in 1976, they got together and formed The Night Ministry (originally called The Northside Ecumenical Night Ministry). They hired one employee who would outreach on the nighttime streets and learn about the life circumstances and needs of the people living on the street.
Now, 40 years later, The Night Ministry has touched thousands of members of the Chicago community struggling with poverty or homelessness by offering outreach services like the Health Outreach Bus that offers medical exams, treatment and HIV testing, short-term housing and transitional living programs, and human connections, such as their Youth Outreach Program  that offers non-judgmental support and guidance to homeless and LGBT youth in the Lakeview area.
To donate to The Night Ministry or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit thenightministry.org .
PADS Lake County
Providing Advocacy, Dignity & Shelter, this organization has helped homeless individuals and families in Lake County since 1972. What started as a 24-hour crisis hotline soon became a shelter and support service. In 1987, PADS first opened its emergency overnight shelter in Waukegan, and shortly after that, the Assessment Center was opened. Now, PADS operates as the only 24/7 emergency shelter system in Lake County, with 14 emergency shelter sites, a fixed site and supportive housing for homeless men.
“Helping the Homeless Find a Way,” PADS offers programs and services such as an assessment in order to give those experiencing homelessness the help they need. Additionally, the Family Center offers each family their own private apartment, and volunteers provide dinners, career assessments for adults and academic help for children.
To learn about how you can help, visit padslakecounty.org .
Salvation Army (Metropolitan Division)
Celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2015, The Salvation Army has long been meeting the needs of individuals and families in the Chicagoland area. Working to eliminate homelessness and hunger, the organization offers a variety of services for people of all ages. The programs offered include family assistance services, adult rehabilitation services and educational and spiritual services.
The Mobile Feeding and Outreach  program travels throughout Chicago every night and makes 25 stops to serve more than 1,000 meals to those in need. The program consists of a mental health specialist and substance counselor, providing assessments and help to those who need assistance. Additionally, the Evangeline Booth Lodge  houses more than 200 parents and children each night, providing food, clothing, job search help and educational programs for children.
To learn more about The Salvation Army, visit centralusa.salvationarmy.org .
In 1979, three friends opened a women’s center in a second-floor apartment. This soon grew into an organization that addressed the problem of homelessness among women, while meeting each woman’s individual needs. Now, Sarah’s Circle continues to provide housing and a safe space to women in the Chicago area. With educational programming, clinical services and more, the organization is a refuge for women in need.
Clinical services address trauma, domestic violence and mental illness, giving women support and an outlet to discuss their experiences. Also offering interim and permanent supportive housing, Sarah’s Circle provides individualized services for each woman. The Fruits & Vegetables Project  aims to raise money for $75 to $100 of fresh produce weekly for the women at Sarah’s Circle.
To get involved and learn about more ways you can support Sarah’s Circle, visit sarahs-circle.org .
Named after the Hebrew word meaning “to pause, rest, and reflect,” Selah Freedom is at the forefront of the fight against sex trafficking. Headquartered in Sarasota, Florida, Selah Freedom helps victims of sex trafficking, while providing education and awareness to communities.
The organization is expanding to the Midwest, in order to provide safe housing and programming for victims. Services are set to launch this fall.
To learn more about Selah Freedom and to help launch the Midwest location, visit selahfreedom.com .
SOS Children’s Villages Illinois
Named one of the 20 top Chicago charities by Chicago Magazine in 2015, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is a safe space for children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. With the on-site staff including child welfare specialists, therapists, family advocates and more, the nonprofit provides comprehensive services to the children they serve. Programs such as tutoring and art classes are also offered.
SOS Children’s Villages Illinois places children with their siblings in a single-family home with a trained foster parent. From there, children are able to reach their full potential thanks to the services, support and safety they receive from the organization.
To learn more about SOS Children’s Villages Illinois and for opportunities to work with the organization, visit sosillinois.org .
The Resurrection Project
In 1990, when dilapidated buildings and housing units, violence on the streets and poverty were forcing families out and into better communities, churches and concerned members of the Pilsen neighborhood founded The Resurrection Project. What started with some $30,000 in seed capital has since grown into community investments of more than $346 million.
The Resurrection Project believes in investing in neighborhoods and their residents and offers a wide range of programs and services to help create and strengthen healthy communities, including education, health, safety, financial wellness, home purchase, and foreclosure prevention programs. They help neighborhoods and communities make a difference by working together on a variety of social issues and volunteer events and even offer immigrants support and counseling through the citizen application process.
To learn more about The Resurrection Project and ways to get involved, visit resurrectionproject.org .
When YouthBuild founder and CEO Dorothy Stoneman asked a group of East Harlem teenagers how they would improve their community if they had adult support, their answer was simple. “We’d rebuild the houses.” So that’s just what they did. Since its first rehabilitation of an abandoned housing unit in East Harlem back in 1978, YouthBuild students worldwide have helped to build more than 33,000 units of affordable housing, as well as community centers, playgrounds and schools.
There are at least 2.3 million low-income 16-24-year-olds in the U.S.  who are neither in school nor employed. Through empowerment, education, community service, advocacy, support, and, of course, building, the programs and services provided by YouthBuild create opportunities for those low-income young adults to rebuild their lives and break the cycle of poverty.
To get involved with YouthBuild or to read the stories of past students, visit youthbuild.org .
Every nine seconds , a woman in the U.S. is assaulted or beaten. As one of the largest domestic violence service and housing programs in the state of Illinois, WINGS provides individual women and women with children a temporary, safe shelter and assistance that allows them to set goals, work to achieve them, continue their education and care for themselves and their children. In addition to the WINGS Safe House, they provide transitional housing where women can continue to address the issues that led to their homelessness in a safe environment and work toward returning to independent living. Other services provided by WINGS include counseling for children and families, career assessments and training, a mentor program called Project Lifeline  and psychological counseling to both WINGS members and non-members.
This past Valentine’s Day, WINGS opened their newest facility, WINGS Metro , which provides 40 women and children with a safe place to escape the traumas of domestic violence. The new building, equipped with a state-of-the-art kitchen, meeting rooms, private gardens and play space, was the first domestic violence shelter built in Chicago in more than a decade. With this new shelter, the number of shelter beds in the city has increased by 36 percent.
Interested in learning more about WINGS? Visit wingsprogram.com  for more information.
YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s Mary Lou’s Place
In 1980, the Evanston Shelter for Battered Women and Their Children was founded as a five-bed shelter. Since then, it has been renamed Mary Lou’s Place and has evolved into a 32-bed residential facility. Helping women and children survivors of domestic violence, Mary Lou’s Place offers emergency shelter for up to 90 days.
Women and children are given clothing, personal supplies and counseling sessions. Additionally, Mary Lou’s Place provides workshops in order to provide women the skills they need when they leave the shelter.
To learn more about Mary Lou’s Place, click here .
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