OPINION – Guest Column
March 2, 2016
My name is Caprice Williams, and I have been homeless since I was 15.
My mom and I did not get along, and she eventually put me on the street. I stayed with friends and family, moving house to house. Things got so bad, I was sleeping in my car.
When I was 21, I got pregnant. When I was five months pregnant, I was walking with my daughter’s father when he was shot and paralyzed. Seeing him almost killed—almost getting killed myself—became too much. I lost my job, my car, and became depressed.
I heard about Harmony Village, a South Side program run by Unity Parenting and Counseling. They gave me and my daughter clothes and an apartment to help us.
I saw a counselor every week. Mrs. Darrine Smith, my caseworker, saw that I would just sit around. Hearing what I went through, she told me I couldn’t give up, that I had to move forward for my baby and me.
Mrs. Smith set up my job interview at Walgreens. During the interview, they asked what I would do in different situations. I finally told the interviewer to stop: “I may not be what you want, but if you give me a chance, I will work hard to be what you need.” He said he would take a chance on me, but I needed certification to be a pharmacy tech. Mrs. Smith and Harmony Village paid for my training. I have worked full time for two months.
Since coming to Harmony Village, my mindset is better. I’m more confident in my ability to provide for my 7-month-old daughter. I was traveling in darkness, but they showed me I have a bright future ahead of me.
Two weeks ago, I was one of the homeless youth who met with Gov. Bruce Rauner. I told him my story and what would happen if homeless youth programs like mine close down because of the budget crisis. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless told him that money was already collected and sitting in Springfield that could ensure these programs didn’t have to close. We needed his help.
I thought he was going to say no to our face, but the governor made me feel like he cared about homeless youth. He even gave me a hug and said he would look into it, not seeing why he “couldn’t get creative like they have in the past.”
But the next Tuesday, his staff called to say there was nothing they could do. We asked why not, and his staff just said no. I felt betrayed by Gov. Rauner because he told us what we wanted to hear to keep us calm and so he would not look like the bad guy.
Harmony Village is more than just a program. It’s family to the girls who live there, and Mrs. Smith treats me like a daughter.
We’re there because we don’t have anyone else. I wish the governor would tell us why he really doesn’t care what happens to us.
Caprice Williams lives in Chicago.