There is small but simple group of activists on Chicago’s troubled South Side. You likely have never heard of them, but what they are doing, or attempting to do is nothing short of miraculous. They are called HelpHouseChicagoHomelessPeople https://sites.google.com/site/helphousechicagohomelesspeople/.
I helped get them up and running over the summer. We literally were taking back immorally foreclosed homes in already struggling and blighted neighborhoods from banks. In a bold move, we simply occupied an abandoned foreclosed home, one the bank was content to simply board up and forget or write off as a loss at 6746 South Champlain. I’m told that the previous owner was an elderly man who died shortly after being evicted. That done, the building was boarded up and forgotten. Taking it back for the homeless, doing badly needed repairs and re-integrating it into the neighborhood, seemed like justice.
Tom Turner, who runs the 501c3, knows what its like to be homeless. He’s struggled with addiction and other issues before finding his way to Occupy Chicago last year, where he found direction, community and inspiration. When we first went to the house thieves had stolen or smashed all the windows, ripped out pipes, destroyed fixtures and carried away the only hot water heater. Pooling our money, friends helped Tom as much as possible, but it was Tom who worked tirelessly, sometimes going days to afford supplies from his public assistance to make the place livable.
Tom was helping himself as much as pursuing the dream of helping others struggling and homeless. This was a lifeline for a man of limited lifelines. He thought way out of the box, showing the same initiative, the same drive and vision equal to any Fortune 500 CEO. Down on the street, belabored by all that comes with and from that, fortunes come hard-fought and in much different packages. But Tom and the small but passionate group of HHCHP now have two houses for the homeless. They’ll tell you it is only the beginning. Tom strikes an imposing profile. He’s been in jail, shot and stabbed numerous times, but I’ve spent a lot of time with him, under all sorts of circumstances, and his heart is true and decent.
So, this Christmas Eve, at around one in the afternoon, I will be delivering a Christmas dinner, complete with all the fixings. A good friend at Safari Cup coffee, Dave McLaughlin has already donated 5 pounds of his finest ground. As winter arrives, I’d give most anything for an “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment, as the community comes together to help people truly making a difference, far from the headlines, but closer to the heart.
So this is what I’m asking, there are a lot of resources needed to make these abandoned houses livable. Come to see the effort and join in the family you never knew you had and feel as welcome as if you’d been there forever. Is there a truer way to celebrate the season?
Some of the materials they need immediately are:
– PVC Piping
– An Electric Water Tank/ Radiators
– Clothes (especially winter clothes and boots)Please contact https://sites.google.com/site/helphousechicagohomelesspeople/donate if you have any of these supplies that you are willing to donate.