All parents want a safe, stable, loving home for their children. Grassroots leader Elizabeth Maldonado, a mother of four, is no different. Although her journey to housing had been tough, her desire to provide a real home for her children was stronger.
Born in Honduras, Elizabeth’s family moved from place to place – never having a home of their own. They moved to Florida, then Ohio, and then back to Central America, always staying with family or in shelters. Abuse was a common occurrence.
“I was in this world where my family life was nothing but chaos, abuse from every angle,” recalls Elizabeth. “As a child I wondered why my life was like this. How was I going to survive this?”
Elizabeth did survive, eventually planting roots in Florida. Though she endeavored to build a better life for her children, due to ongoing domestic violence and abuse, they found themselves in and out of shelters.
Desperate for a fresh start, Elizabeth moved with her four children – Robert, Elizabeth, Joshua, and Sarah – to Chicago in 2016. When their shared living space became unsafe, they moved into La Posada Shelter operated by Casa Central in Humboldt Park.
At the shelter it was difficult for her kids to stay focused and hold on to the belief that one day they would be in their own home.
“I would tell them you have to keep going,” Elizabeth says, “But it was hard. How do you keep your kids focused when other kids are screaming, or we have a tough time getting to the doctor?”
Then Elizabeth connected with Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Community Organizer Alyssa Rodriguez at an event at Casa Central.
“I thought, how could such a small person have such a big voice!” Elizabeth shared with a smile. “There is no way I could ever do that.”
But Elizabeth agreed to a follow up conversation with Alyssa, and learned how she could use her voice to make change. After her first meeting at CCH’s office, she felt and found what she had longed for – a family to support her.
As a grassroots leader with CCH, Elizabeth advocates for policies and resources to support families impacted by homelessness – families like hers.
With the CPS Focus Group, she helped secure hotspot devices and laptops to support homeless families with remote learning. She served on the Governance Committee of CCH’s Mutual Aid Fund, helping distribute $500 grants to 400 Illinois households impacted by homelessness. Last spring Elizabeth spoke at a citywide housing forum, sharing her family’s own struggles with homelessness.
And she is just getting started.
“When I’m advocating for myself, I’m advocating for everyone else,” Elizabeth said. “I’m always talking to people about CCH.”
Elizabeth credits CCH organizers Alyssa, Claudia Cabrera, and Bisma Shoukat for always being there to help her family with their housing needs, while also providing emotional support. Though the pandemic made the idea of getting a home seem even more distant for Elizabeth’s family, in March 2021, that all changed.
Through All Chicago’s Expedited Housing Initiative, they were finally going to have a home of their own.
“We screamed with excitement!” Elizabeth said. The family could not believe it finally happened – a place to call home.
Today, the family of five shares a 3-bedroom apartment on the North Side of Chicago where they care for some pets, her oldest son bakes, her daughter paints, and Elizabeth proudly displays her art all over the apartment.
Elizabeth and her kids finally feel at home.