Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Changing Lives, One at a Time: Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

There's one more program in the Chicago Lights family that I want to talk about here, the Elam Davies Social Service Center.

Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center (EDSSC) meets basic human needs while working with partner agencies to support persons on their journey toward greater stability and self-sufficiency. Its services include case management, a food pantry, clothing assistance, housing assistance, job-readiness training, street outreach, and support groups. With the exception of the food pantry, there are no geographic boundaries or eligibility requirements. Their goal is to serve all neighbors with dignity and respect.
This program has changed so much in the fifteen years that I've been working for Fourth Church. Back then it primarily addressed the immediate needs of the men and women who came through --- clothing, food, emergency transportation --- and did so out of a couple of dark, cramped rooms of the church basement. They're still in the basement but have now taken over the whole wing, and the space is bright, colorful, and cheerful. And the focus now includes addressing long-term issues of homelessness and poverty, both on an individual basis, and through legal advocacy at the state level. In particular, their case management program works with each guest individually to assist them in addressing their particular needs, from obtaining legal identification to learning how to budget. They also have a street outreach program now, going out to deliver needed basic-care items and to encourage the folks they encounter to come in to the EDSSC for help with housing.

Here's a sampling of what contributions can bring:

  • $25 can provide a birth certificate and new ID card for a guest applying for jobs or housing, or a new outfit for a guest interviewing for multiple job opportunities.
  • $50 can provide 50 sets of hand warmers to distribute to those on the streets in winter, or 40 winter hats, or 8 weeks of fresh produce.
  • $100 can provide 100 pairs of reading glasses, or 4 application fees for single room occupancy apartments, or a month's worth of unlimited public transportation for a guest to find and keep employment.
  • $1000 can provide an apartment application fee, first month's rent, and security deposit for a guest in low-income housing.

It's been amazing to see how this program has changed over the years. They truly are changing lives, one at a time.

In five days time I'll be running 26.2 miles in honor and support of the amazing people --- staff, volunteers, students, and guests --- who are involved with Chicago Lights. You can read about the other programs here and here... you can contribute here (and if you do so know that I will bake something for every pledge of $45 or more)... and you can track me by signing up here (under Anne Ellis, bib 30659).

Wish me luck!

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