Annual Letter ’17

January 2017

Dear Friends,

The Dewan Foundation concluded another successful year of grant making in 2016.  Altogether, the foundation made 43 grants for a total of $149,100.  This was down considerably from the unsustainable annual amounts of the last three years as we decreased funding for overseas grants.

With some re-focusing on major program areas in Chicago, we were able to increase funding of our effort to serve the homeless.  We made grants to 22 local homeless-serving organizations.  Grant spending in this area totaled $67,000, about 15% more than in 2015.

We also increased our commitment to Catholic education in Chicago with larger grants for college preparation at a girls’ high school on the near Southwest Side and for tuition support for an innovative middle school educating young African American men on the West Side.

The Foundation broadened the array of countries overseas into areas where we had never made a grant before.  These included grants for digital literacy for needy students in El Salvador, support for young Catholic nuns in training in Bukoba, Tanzania and a school building effort in the West African nation of Mali, just outside the fabled City of Timbuktu.  This city is returning to normal after the defeat of forces affiliated with Al Qaeda who forcibly took over the area in 2012.

One area in which we have made a larger response to local needs is youth homelessness.  There are nearly 11,000 unaccompanied young people in Chicago with no place to call home.  While some are locked out of their family home, often after revealing a pregnancy or their sexual orientation, others leave to escape abuse, neglect or parental mental health or substance abuse issues.  Forty percent of homeless young people served by Chicago agencies identify as LGBT.  Nationally, young people cite severe family conflict as the primary reason for becoming homeless.  Of those who run away from home each year, almost half have been beaten by a caretaker and three quarters described other instances of physical abuse.  More than half reported that their parents told them to leave, or did not care that they were leaving.  Homeless young people are especially vulnerable with more than 60% reporting that they were assaulted or otherwise victimized on the streets.

There are severe and long-term consequences of their situation.  Homeless youth are at increased risk for anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.  Nationally, up to 75% of homeless youths leave school without getting their high school diploma.

While homeless young people are often in desperate straits when they eventually link up with needed services, they are capable of transforming their entire life story in just 12-36 months.   Help comes at a critical point in their personal development.

The Dewan Foundation has consistently supported five local organizations that focus their efforts on youth homelessness.   Over the years, the Dewan Foundation has made a total commitment of approximately $100,000 to this issue, with half that amount since 2012.

Together, these organizations provide services citywide.  Each of them works aggressively, pursuing a variety of goals simultaneously.  These include stabilizing a housing situation, advancing education and career options, increasing competency in basic living skills, restoring and maintaining physical and mental health, achieving and retaining employment.   They offer a continuum of services from drop-in centers where young people can be safe and get some basic services like food, a shower or wash their clothes, to emergency shelter, interim housing, education support, life skills training, transitional employment and finally, independent living support to help them gain their footing, assume full adult responsibilities and make their own way in the world.

These grants are integral to the central mission of the Dewan Foundation to help those in poverty progress to a better place in life through their own efforts.  As in all of our work, we are striving to provide hope and a future to people whose prospects might otherwise be very dim.  We continue to appreciate your support and encouragement of our efforts.

Sincerely,

The Board of Directors

John and Susan Dewan Foundation