Yvette has been at the Jonquil since last August and the night she got the call from Karen (the manager of the property for Good News Partners) she was sleeping in a park and in her words “out of options.” She met Karen the next morning and moved in. Her gorgeous pink scarf framed her regal and beautiful face as I photographed her going through some of the donations, “these (kid’s sneakers) shoes will be good for the mom that lives down the hall from me. I see her every morning getting her kids ready and doing everything that she does and I always think to myself if she can do this so can I.” She spoke often of the life giving sense of community at the Jonquil.
She has four grandchildren and loved showing off the pictures she had tucked away of them and we took a couple fun portraits with poses her grand-daughters would love. Yvette is very grateful for all of the resources that exist in this area, “if you are willing to work hard you can change your life.” She has a beautiful smile that, although she was reluctant to show off at first, is so natural, gorgeous, & speaks of her deep strength.
I was so grateful to hear her story as part of an assignment with Good News Partners. Good News Partner's mission is TO END HOMELESSNESS AND HOPELESSNESS WITH EVERYONE GOD BRINGS US – TO FOSTER JUSTICE, AND BUILD BRIDGES OF RECONCILIATION. GNP seeks to provide desirable and dignified housing for those in transition and over the course of a week I was welcomed in to meet people and capture stories from many residents living in their various properties in Chicago.
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.
Karen is the manager and also lives at the Jonquil with the residents she manages. Karen’s name was mentioned by every single resident of the Jonquil as the person that “ knows my situation”, “ helps me so much,” “I would do anything for Karen”, “she is always here to help and understands me.”
At first reluctant to be in the spotlight it is clear that she labors to connect with and empower the residents not from a place of paternalism but from a place of friendship and love.
“I have made lots of mistakes and lived a lot of life before being here. I’ve seen too many things.” -William.
These brothers welcomed me into their SRO room and we immediately connected over the Cubs poster on heir wall. They are about a year apart and are from Puerto Rico originally. William originally came to the US for rehab after a cousin told him he could get clean here. A large and still healing scar across William’s knee means that he is not as mobile as he would like to be and will soon get his own apartment on the first floor. He was in a coma for a month and a half and his brother came to visit three times a week. William said, “I did not know he was there but he helps me and I help him.” They both said that they will do anything for Karen because she knows them and their situation and does everything she can to help them. William often jumps into volunteer with sweeping or cleaning in the building to help Karen.
His motivation to keep working towards his goals are his family. William said he just wants his mother to be able to sleep at night and know that her son is safe. “It was too long that she didn’t know that.”
He has children in Miami and wants to be present for them. GNP has allowed these brothers to have safety and stability as they work to rebuild their lives.
I met 2 more of the staff at GNP over at another property just down the street from the Jonquil they were working hard to rehab called the Esperanza. Fidel, originally from Mexico and his brother Marcos (another property manager for GNP) have worked with GNP for years and have also been residents on the affordable housing as well. Fidel loves the Bears (loved his hat!) & has seen the properties change a lot over time.
William was shy but it was clear when I photographed him with Fidel (Fidel called William “The handsome one”) that they have a great working relationship and friendship. They were working hard at painting trim and rehabbing the kitchen that will be home to folks soon.
Sharing more from GNP soon but please check out their newly launched website for more about their good work in Chicago.