National Hunger & Homeless Week: Be nice, because everyone has a story to tell

During National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, CCH offers these essays by interns, staff and volunteers, writing about what inspires their work.

By Sylvia Hibbard, Organizing intern

We all have a story, and it is those stories that define who we are and what opportunities we have been given throughout our lives. My story follows a path that is very similar to the one many of the people who experience homelessness have. I grew up in a broken home, surrounded by addiction and abuse. I also experienced short periods of homelessness, but I also had many advantages provided to me by the way the systems are set up around us.

Sylvia Hibbard
Sylvia Hibbard

Growing up in Germany I had a safety net that prevented me from slipping into long-term homelessness. This safety net came in form of my extended family who picked me up and gave me the emotional support I needed. It also came in form of a government that provided me with free education and affordable healthcare. And it came from a society that valued its members so that minimum wage would be enough for someone to afford their basic needs. 

It is this story of mine that has driven my passion for helping people. Having volunteered for over two decades with organizations that serve vulnerable populations, I finally took the next step, and after raising two amazing daughters, I went back to college to pursue a degree in social work.

I consider myself fortunate to be interning at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. I am able to learn about the systematic injustices that are at the root of homelessness and how to work within these systems so that maybe someday people here in Chicago will have the same safety nets as I had: safety nets that will provide them with the tools to meet their basic needs, no matter what circumstances they find themselves in.

Sylvia Hibbard grew up near Frankfurt, Germany, emigrating at the age of 22 to be with her American husband, Scott. They have two daughters, Denise, 24, and Danielle, 21. Sylvia is a senior in the social work program at Northeastern Illinois University. She will graduate in May, five days before her younger daughter, Danielle.