The need for a safe,
secure, and supportive shelter for women during a crisis of
homelessness is clear. In twenty years of operation, from May 19,
1983 through May 31, 2004, St. Martin de Porres has aided, housed,
and fed 12,947 women and children. Of those receiving shelter, 512
were pregnant teenagers, 404 of whom had at least one child.
Estimates of the number
of homeless people in Chicago vary widely. Yet a comparison of needs
and current resources based even on the most conservative figures
displays a stark insufficiency. It is extremely difficult for any
young single woman with one or more children to reach her full
potential. Indeed, many children in Chicago will not survive for a
single year. Statistics show that the median income for a single
female and her family is only $12,000; that 75% of pregnant
teenagers become welfare recipients.
The shelter aims to
serve women with children, substance abusers with or without
children, and teenagers. The woman and her children may remain until
the recovery is sufficient for them to become stabilized and move to
independence, which could be from ten months to a year, sometimes longer.
Sister Connie-Solutions That Work
Martin de Porres House of Hope is located in the Woodlawn Community
(Community Area #42)in southeast Chicago and is the only shelter for
women in that neighborhood. Woodlawn is one of the poorest
neighborhoods in Chicago. Abandoned buildings and deserted lots
dominate the landscape. Housing quality is poor, rents are high;
sub-standard or condemned housing often forces residents to seek
shelter. Others with adequate shelter find their living situations
intolerable due to physical and sexual abuse or extreme poverty.
Another large number of residents become homeless because of drug
addiction and unanticipated family expenses.
May 19, 1983, when Sister Connie Driscoll and Sister Therese
O'Sullivan established the shelter, the doors of St. Martin de
Porres have remained open daily to homeless women and families. The
shelter currently has a capacity of 110 persons with the means to
increase to a total of 120 beds if necessary, a staff of 14, and
over 100 volunteers, 60 of whom participate at least once a month.
Two staff members live at the shelter.
Requests for shelter come from throughout the Chicago area. We
accept requests for shelter on a first-come, first-served basis.
Requests must come from a social service organization--a church or
temple, hospital, Department of Human Services, Department of Public
Aid, Department of Children and Family Services, referrals by past
residents, or others. The only restrictions on living at the House
of Hope are that a woman must follow the rules and regulations of
the shelter, must be serious about making positive changes in her
life, must remain sober, drug free and cannot be seriously mentally