Since its founding in 1983, HOW has empowered thousands of clients to break the cycle of poverty and achieve permanent housing, long-term economic stability, and empower them toward lifelong self-sufficiency.
Creating a Sense of Home
Growing up in Chicago, Candy was exposed to drugs and violence from an early age. After battling both addiction and homelessness for years she was incarcerated. While at HOW Candy took advantage of the supportive services offered to her and her children, and they all reaped the benefits. Bolstered by HOW’s programs and resources, her children thrived and their family bond strengthened.
Candy eventually earned her degree and secured her first job at the age of 37. Years later, Candy owns her own home and plans to continue her education next year at Northeastern University taking courses in Nonprofit Management.
In 2006 after the loss of her nephew, Angel suffered from a mild stroke due to stress and eventually lost her job as a result. Without an income, Angel and her children moved into a one-bedroom apartment with her mother and then found themselves homeless after her mother passed from a heart attack a few years later. After living in a shelter for two months, the family received an apartment through HOW and immediately became active in the community. Both children enrolled in the Youth Program, and Angel started counseling and returned to school eventually earning her BA in Human Service Management. Today the family is thriving, and in spite of the fact that they are more spread out with several family members in college, they remain closer than ever.
Despite setbacks and challenges, Sontcera (son-sir-ray) is focused on making things better for herself and the world around her. After struggling with homelessness, health issues and an arrest record, she was connected to HOW’s permanent supportive housing and enthusiastically jumped into the programs offered. She also came to HOW with decades of service as a community advocate as a founding member of the Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CLGA) Leadership Council and an active constituent of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI).
In March 2021 Sontcera joined the Governor, Mayor, and members of the Illinois Black Caucus at a press conference where she spoke about the importance of the Public Housing Access bill and the Employee Background Fairness Act. Sontcera knows first-hand how difficult it is to find a job with a criminal record. Even though her arrests were decades ago, included charges for activities that are now legal, and she has since received a Certificate of Good Conduct from the state, her record still follows her.
Sontcera’s health has also required her to advocate for herself. In 2003 she received a diagnosis of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory condition that affects organs in the body. Her severe headaches made it feel as if “the world was spinning,” and she was eventually forced to take time to address her disease. By exploring treatments, changing her diet, and adding herbal remedies to pair with the drug therapy, she’s not only managed her condition, today she is in full remission.
During the COVID-19 pandemic she took advantage of virtual programming at HOW which helped her gain access to a therapist, increase her financial literacy, and refresh her employment skills. Sontcera attended HOW’s online Employment Workshops. While she already had many existing proficiencies, including a certification in computer technology, she honed new skills to perfect her online interviewing techniques and build out her LinkedIn profile.
She is eager to pursue a career combining social justice, grassroots organizing, and policy making, hoping to focus on implementation and using data to measure outcomes in specific communities. She is determined to educate, advocate, and connect people and knows, “that's how we can really get things done!
With four accomplished and active children, a fulltime job, and a passion for helping her community, Tina rarely has a moment to herself...and that is just the way she likes it.
Tina’s journey has not been an easy one. She was forced to flee not only an abusive relationship, but her home country as well. To find safety, Tina and her four young children immigrated to the United States and joined her brother in his small apartment on Chicago’s North Side. The older children were enrolled in the local elementary school, while Tina stayed home with her youngest. Before her life was turned upside down, Tina was surrounded by family and active in her community, but the trauma and isolation she now experienced, coupled with the stress and instability of six people crammed into a one-bedroom apartment, caused her to slowly dip into depression.
This all changed when Tina was introduced to HOW and received an apartment located right the street from a park where the children could play. Tina urged her kids to be active in school and immediately enrolled them in HOW’s Afterschool Program where they received academic tutoring and participated in enrichment activities thee days a week. Their immediate passion for learning and fun-loving nature eased the transition and they soon were performing above grade level and surrounded by friends.
For Tina, it was harder to make friends. But at the urging of her Case Manager, Ruby Konopka, she joined several HOW classes and quickly found her own supportive and welcoming community. This community included Ruby herself, who has helped Tina lay down roots in Chicago and continues to play an important role in her and the children’s lives.
Today, the family is flourishing. The kids, ages 8 to 14, still participate in HOW programs and are excelling at school, one already thinking about college, another performing far above grade level; the third is a gifted artist and the youngest, an aspiring athlete. Tina works a full-time job and is always striving to do more for her family. She is also active in her church community, attends HOW events, and continues to cook delicious homemade African food which she regularly shares with clients and staff (her most popular dish is her fufu!).
After a period of housing instability and homelessness, Jetaime and her family finally received an apartment through HOW in November 2013. With a safe place to call home and the strength of HOW’s expansive resources behind her, she eagerly returned to school in the hopes of earning her degree. From the moment she joined HOW, Jetaime became active in the community, attending events and workshops, and partnering with her Case Manager to create a detailed education plan for herself and her children. “She is so smart, determined, and dedicated,” notes Kimberly Gleeson, Jetaime’s Case Manager from 2013-2017, “I believe she’s going to be successful no matter what she ends up doing and I’m happy HOW has been able to help her in the
After a number of traumatic events and several moves during her first years back at school, Jetaime began attending HOW’s group counseling sessions which gave her a safe space to share, connect, and heal. She continued to persevere and in 2018 graduated from college with her Associate’s Degree.
Jetaime immediately began working with HOW’s employment team after graduation. She was determined to put her education to use and find a job. “Her personality is like sunshine,” shares Spresa Zeqiri from HOW’s Employment Team who worked with Jetaime to find job opportunities, create a resume, secure professional clothing, and prepare for interviews. Spresa still remembers meeting Jetaime when she entered the program four years ago. “She is a great parent and person,” gushes Spresa, “When you talk with her, you can feel her motivation and joy.”
By fall 2018 Jetaime secured the perfect job as a Research Assistant at the University of Chicago working 25 hours a week. The part-time nature of the work is ideal and allows her to support and provide for her growing family, while also being a hands-on mother. Powered by her degree and determination Jetaime continues to thrive in her
work and life.