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New Moms’ Oak Park Groundbreaking Responds to Cook County’s Affordable Housing Crisis

DePaul University’s most recent annual study of rental housing in Cook County underscores the magnitude of the affordable housing crisis in our communities, revealing that there are 181,794 fewer affordable homes in Cook County than those who need them. This housing “affordability gap” means that for many low-income people, each month brings a painful choice between paying the rent or purchasing basic household needs such as food, clothing or medicine. And this is just in one single county. Nationally, the affordability gap is as high as 7 million homes.

At New Moms, most of our clients are either homeless or lack stable housing, which means they’ve grown accustomed to playing this zero-sum game. Every dollar spent from meager resources on rent means a dollar less for family necessities such as diapers or formula.

And, while our organization can help ease the strain this dilemma causes in the short term by providing access to basic necessities, it’s just a band aid for a growing problem. To affect meaningful change, our nation must examine the root causes of poverty and look for ways to expand the supply of affordable housing for struggling families. This is why housing is an integral part of New Moms’ holistic programmatic approach.

In 2013, New Moms opened our Transformation Center in the Austin community. There we serve up to 40 moms and 50 children at a time, offering transitional housing in a stable, nurturing environment. The Transformation Center fills a gap in the local housing market for mothers and their children transitioning out of homelessness. As the name implies, we’ve seen transformational change among many of the families in the program, but the transitional nature of the program limits each family’s stay to two years.

This has been a key motivation behind our latest project, Clare Place, which will provide permanent supportive housing for up to 18 moms and their children, further expanding the supply of affordable housing in the area and taking a small step toward closing the affordability gap locally.

Unlike the transitional housing program at the Transformation Center, families will be able to remain housed for as long as needed in an environment in which supportive services are readily available. The building will also include program space on the first floor for community education, parenting support and offices.

On April 11, we celebrated the official start of this project with a groundbreaking ceremony attended by New Moms’ staff, members of the community and several media outlets (you can read and watch the resulting coverage through the links below). Moving forward, we will be providing regular updates on construction on our blog, so be sure to check back periodically to learn more about the status of the project, how it will improve the lives of our participants and strengthen the community as a whole.

View the media coverage on our groundbreaking: