Shamaje pays it forward

Shamaje, a young Black man, smiles while posing in front of a leafy backdrop. He is wearing a gray Michael Kors sweater. White text reads: Shamaje pays it forward.

At the start of the pandemic, Shamaje Singleton, then 18, was unable to afford housing on his own. He bounced around Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, living doubled-up with various family members and sharing crowded hotel rooms with friends.  

A month after turning 19, Shamaje received wonderful news: He had been accepted into the Solid Ground transitional living program at La Casa Norte. Shamaje instantly connected to the community living in the dorm-style building in Humboldt Park.  

Shamaje, a young Black man, smiles while posing in front of the Chicago River. He is wearing a orange baseball cap and a gray Michael Kors sweater.

His caseworker Jordan Gearey recalls, “Even though he had experienced a lot of bad luck himself, Shamaje was always kind and willing to pay attention and help out others when they were in crisis.” 

At his caseworker’s recommendation, Shamaje applied to CCH’s Mutual Aid Fund online in July 2021, finding the process to be “smooth and convenient.” When he learned that his application had been funded, he said, “I was shocked but so grateful to receive this support.” 

A $500 grant from CCH’s Mutual Aid Fund gave Shamaje the chance to open a bank account and use the funds for moving fees, food, and transportation.   

Later, when CCH Community Organizer Alyssa Rodriguez invited Shamaje to join CCH’s advocacy efforts as a grassroots leader, he knew he had the skills for it. As a member of an inaugural action research project, Shamaje worked with other young people who had experienced homelessness to decide what issues are important to them and develop proposed solutions.  

The action research project has since evolved into a core youth advocacy group, which continues to develop strategies for addressing housing and mental health issues for young people in Chicago. 

“I am proud to stay involved,” Shamaje said. “I always like to do community work. I want to help people in similar situations to never give up.”