Sierra had a steady full-time job as a baker until her mother was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. She left work, and she and her children, 8-year-old Marissa and 4-year-old Larissa, moved into her mother’s senior living apartment, which had grown cramped with medical equipment including her mother’s hospital bed. After her mother sadly passed, the facility management asked her to leave. The family became homeless.
Sierra, her partner Kailee, and her kids moved into an area motel. The room had a $360 weekly fee. The location has a 1.5/5 rating on Trip Advisor with reviews headlined, "Awful," "Horrible," and "STAY AWAY!!!" that emphasized a lack of amenities, rooms in disrepair, and potentially dangerous guests like peeping toms and drug dealers. It was no place for a family, but it was better than life on the street. As a result of COVID-19 closures, layoffs and a slowdown in hiring, Sierra lost her job at an area staffing agency. That's when she came to us for help.
The most recent figures available for HUD's Annual Point-in-Time Count show that over 7,500 people in Illinois were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2019; of these, 2,000 were families with children. These figures do not include people who were doubled up with family or friends, like Sierra and her children.
Homelessness takes a serious toll on children, including poorer health, lower performance in school, and increased behavioral problems compared to their housed peers, even those who are very poor. Over the past few years, BEDS Plus has invested deeply in services for homeless families, including dedicated family case management and longer-term housing programs that give families the time they need to stabilize.
Family Transitional Shelter is the latest addition to BEDS' family services. Sierra, Kailee, Marissa and Larissa are the first family we were able to place in the program. Family Transitional Shelter places families in motel units while they are assessed for services and tested for COVID-19. While some families can move quickly into BEDS traditional housing programs, others need more time and supportive services to regain a home of their own. These families are moved into an apartment leased by BEDS. Family Case Manager Chris Hart specializes in helping family members of all ages recover from the causes and effects of homelessness, and, with his help, Sierra and her family have made substantial progress. She has regained employment, and her partner is optimistic about finding a part-time job that will leave her with time to care for the children. Sierra and Kailee are dedicated to their family and making their way to a permanent home of their own.
BEDS Plus helps families who are literally homeless, like Sierra's and Kailee's, and families who are already poor, without savings, and faced with the threat of eviction. Between BEDS' Family Transitional Shelter, Prevention and Stabilization, and traditional housing programs, we now help 550 children in families from Southwest Suburban Cook County annually.
You can learn more about homelessness and its effect on children on our Resources page.