Housing Opportunities for Women (HOW) empowers women, children and families to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
As homelessness progressively affects families as well as single individuals, HOW is dealing with a growing number of single mothers with one or more children. Locating overnight child care for women working a night shift, providing cash for job related needs and working through past criminal records are typical issues that need resolution.
Women participate in HOW services on average for about two years. While each person has a unique set of needs, and services are customized individually, there are some common themes. A major issue is the gap between the cost of housing and stagnant/low wage levels. Remediating skill deficits so that women get qualify for a living wage job takes time. HOW has an active career services program, but it takes several months or more than a year to complete any of a variety of certificated training programs.
Over the last year, 80 new clients were placed in employment, and an additional 90 maintained their jobs. Entry level wages now average $10.68 per hour. The number of partnerships with local employers continues to grow with 47 companies maintaining an ongoing relationship with HOW to source employees.
Rents in the neighborhood are rising, and it is getting more difficult to place women in housing that is nearby. HOW manages about 375 housing units that currently stretch from one end of the city to the other.
Children now comprise half of the service population at HOW, and there is a new after school program for children ranging from toddlers to high schoolers. Children in school get an hour of homework help followed by tutoring provided by students from nearby Loyola University. HOW also works with the parents to reinforce appropriate behaviors around issues of punctuality, review of report cards and advocacy with the schools to provide the help that the children need.
HOW has substantial scale and experienced staff and management in place to continue providing a high-quality service for homeless women and their families.