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Women’s Empowerment Project

Senior Organizer Dollie Brewer (far right, yellow cap) and shelter families met Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn at an Office Depot school supplies event.

For 23 years, the Women’s Empowerment Project has organized in Chicago shelters and transitional housing facilities that serve mothers with young children or single women.

Senior Community Organizer Dollie Brewer is among three staff members who experienced homelessness in their personal lives. Mrs. Brewer lived in an abandoned building for six months – with her husband, five younger children and a grandchild – after a fire hit her family’s suburban Oak Park home. After participating in CCH outreach, Mrs. Brewer says, “I learned I was homeless – I was in denial.”

Mrs. Brewer was asked to join the staff in 1997. She has been organizing homeless mothers and women ever since.

Mrs. Brewer fosters rapport and trust among the women she meets based on their shared experience. Her work helps homeless women change their lives, creating a supportive atmosphere in which their voices are heard. Participants learn to be advocates for themselves and leaders for other families also struggling with homelessness. She offers monthly outreach at 11 facilities, eight serving families and three for adults. These include a West Side men’s shelter, where Mrs. Brewer helps mobilize homeless adults to speak out on job and minimum wage issues.

Women’s Empowerment Project was presented as a model of how to organize homeless women at the United Nations Habitat II conference in Istanbul, Turkey (1996). Since then, the project has been duplicated by organizations in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Connecticut.

In 2014, the women’s project is supported by project-based grants from Stand Up! Chicago and the Shaker Family Foundation of Oak Park.

For more information, contact Senior Community Organizer Dollie Brewer at (312) 641-4140.