I walked into New Life Interim Housing on a frigid February day to warm smiles and kids running around greeting their Moms and friends after they arrived home from school. The families and people I met at New Life defy their current circumstances with amazing grit & hope.
New Life is a safe haven and chance for a fresh start for many and one resident described how grateful she was for a safe place, "We're (her daughter and herself) just happy to have a safe space to lay our heads every night."
New Life Interim Housing is a 36-bed shelter that provides a safe, warm environment for women, children, and families for up to 120 days. Residents all contribute to the daily life at New Life through cleaning and cooking and caring for the space.
Good News Partners is committed to provide the tools needed to break free from homelessness focusing on potential and building on assets of the clients that spend a season at New Life. Each client is partnered with our case manager to help them establish goals that will be critical in rebuilding their lives and casting a vision of hope for the future.
Good News Partners shares, "At New Life, we are committed to helping those in need and ensuring that they have the support and tools needed to jump start their lives and transition to more permanent housing. Some seasons in our lives are longer than we think the should be but that does not mean we should throw away the rest of our lives. We help our residents transition into the next season of their lives. "
They seek to dignify the current season while encouraging their clients to envision a future with new hopes and dreams.
In addition to case management, GNP also offer referrals to job training programs, assistance in finding medical and legal resources, and once they are ready - access to transitional housing options.
Typically families who stay longer have better outcomes because they are able to save money and work with the resources that GNP provides to help address many of the the needs in their lives. Newly painted blue bunk beds take up half of the space along with a communal kitchen and bathroom, area for dining, a playroom for the children, and a family room with a TV.
One of the distinctives of New Life was that it was difficult to tell which family units came in together because as they lived together there was clearly a community formed. Kids were greeted by multiple hugs from other residents and staff as they arrived home from school. Staff and residents alike corrected and affirmed the children seamlessly.
The young people I met bravely shared some of the struggles-changing schools, fearing for their moms among others but they also shared typical teenage life- showed us YouTube videos, bemoaned too much homework, celebrated school success and shared about the clubs and extracurricular activities they love.
Isaiah attends a local high school and loves playing football. He requested a portrait with his mom- it is clear the deep respect and love he has for her for "never letting me down."
Miss Daisy was the night staff member doing multiple tasks all while greeting residents and graciously sharing some of her life story with us. She is originally from Texas but found herself in Chicago and had an addiction issue that haunted her for 30 years. She was actually a resident of the New Life shelter years ago and then moved to the Jonquil. She now lives in the neighborhood and celebrated 8 years of sobriety as well as 8 years of working at New Life. Her loving but stern presence attracted children all night long who know well where she keeps the snacks.
One of the distinctives of Good News Partners is that many of the staff I had the privilege to meet had been residents or benefited from the programs they offer previously. This allowed an environment of mutuality and support without the sometimes all too common 'us and them' that can exist in the NGO sphere. Their personal stories and experience inform their compassionate action and this place of empathy is a powerful place to serve from. I learned so much from spending time with them as they quietly & powerfully served.
The children and moms were preparing for bedtime when I started packing up to head out and Isaiah decided to lead a group hug with the young people and making everyone laugh. He is clearly a leader at New Life and embraces his younger siblings and the other children at New Life with love, humor, & warmth.