This week I was thumbing through old photo albums from Marah’s, our housing program in the Lakeview neighborhood. Leased from the Archdiocese of Chicago, the former convent is part of the St. Alphonsus campus. Over the past 20 years, more than 600 women who were homeless found a place of safety, community and healing on their journey to stable housing and a better quality of life. As I turned each page of the photo albums I remembered the residents who lived in the building in its 20 year history. Many moved on to other housing or opportunities. We mourned the passing of others.
There are also photos of the supporters who spent countless hours helping us obtain the zoning we needed to move to the building: collecting petition signatures, organizing community meetings, attending rallies. Without the tireless organizing efforts of the Lakeview Action Coalition (now ONE Northside), those 600 women would not have had a home at Marah’s. The photos of volunteers and donors reminded me that Deborah’s Place is part of a community that brings care and concern. It is a community that invests resources of time, talent and funding to help women recover from homelessness.
Finally, there are photos of staff members – some who left a long time ago and others who are still here. As one of those staff members who has been here since the beginning, it’s quite profound to look back on 20 years of history and see how far we’ve come. Our journey at Marah’s was sometimes hard and painful, but always hopeful.
Throughout the summer, the 30 residents of Marah’s relocated to community-based housing. While they are living in apartments in different parts of the city, they continue to receive case management and have access to the services and resources of Deborah’s Place through our Community-Based Housing Program. We are grateful to everyone who made a donation and/or purchased household items for the new apartments.
One of our challenges was where to relocate our staff who had offices at Marah’s. We are very fortunate to be sharing space with Renaissance Social Services on the west side. The Community-Based Housing Program staff will now be in one place, able to support each other and continue to provide the best quality services to the growing number of women living in the community.
Next week, I will walk through the building one last time before returning the keys to our wonderful friends at St. Alphonsus. I will not need the photos to help me remember.
As always, it is a privilege to be traveling with you,