A new city housing program is helping 100 homeless families, including the Wards, secure homes of their own. The Families in Transition program was created after advocacy led by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless through our signature campaign, HomeWorks.
“It will be better – it will be our own place,” says Robin Ward. “We can raise our kids the way we want to raise our kids. We don’t have to worry about living doubled-up with different people.”
Robin and her husband Darnell have children ages 5, 12 and 14. The family has been without a home since June 2015, when the Wards had to move back on short notice from downstate Danville. A former restaurant manager, Darnell, 41, is disabled by health issues following a kidney transplant. When his health insurer would not authorize care by a downstate kidney specialist, the family was directed to return to Chicago. The move also cost Robin her job as a school bus driver.
Back in Chicago, the Wards have moved among various friends and relatives, living weeks to a few months at a time in apartments around the city. Currently, the family shares a bedroom in a relative’s apartment, while the Wards pay modest rent and cover food expenses for the household.
Despite frequent moves around the city, the Wards have made it a priority to keep their children enrolled in the same schools. Robin knows first-hand how difficult it is on a child to move from school to school, including the negative impact on learning.
“Coming up, we moved every year and we went to a different school almost every year,” she recalls. “I don’t want my kids to go through that.”
Upon returning to school this fall, the Wards were told about a new program to provide subsidized housing for homeless families in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Housing Support for CPS Families in Transition, or FIT, offers housing subsidies with support services. The program assesses the most vulnerable among 265 homeless families at six grade schools on Chicago’s South and West sides.
So far, more than 80 families have been matched to housing. As advocated by our HomeWorks campaign, FIT is the first Chicago housing program to help homeless families who double-up instead of living in shelters. About half the families qualifying for placement in FIT are doubled-up, like the Wards.
Robin and Darnell volunteer on a HomeWorks parent committee guided by a CCH organizer. Parent leaders help keep other parents informed and offer feedback during FIT’s implementation.
Recently selected for the housing program, the Wards have been busy looking for a family-sized apartment not far from school. Under FIT guidelines, they will contribute 30% of their income.
“I’m excited because we’ll be getting a new home,” says 12-year-old Darnell, Jr. “I can be in a new neighborhood and meet new people.”
Adds Robin, “We’ll be a big step closer to where we want to be.”