We help women break free from violence and rebuild their lives.

911 shouldn’t get you evicted

Call the police from your rental unit when domestic violence threatens, and you may save your life, but at the cost of your home.

A recent case in the Chicago suburbs prompted lawyers from two CFW grantee organizations to sound the alarm on the unintended side-effects of crime-free housing laws. An article, published in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, outlines how the ordinances that many Illinois municipalities have on the books are lumping victims and perpetrators, and forcing women to choose between safety and homelessness. Attorney Lorie Chaiten is the director of the reproductive rights project for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois; attorney Kate Walz is the director of housing justice for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

A women’s network can save a woman’s life

Leona is a resident of Teresa’s Interim Housing at Deborah’s Place which is a temporary housing program that provides women a safe, structured community of women.

“I used to hear people say ‘the grass is greener on the other side,’ and I never understood what it meant.”

Leona has endured it all: sexual abuse, a miscarriage at age 14, homelessness, addiction, a suicide attempt, and beatings so severe that she once woke up in the hospital, unsure how she had gotten there.

“I felt like I was fighting a losing battle,” she says.

Things finally began to turn around when Leona found Teresa’s Interim Housing at Deborah’s Place, a CFW- supported program within the Eleanor Network.

Teresa’s provides what’s called supportive housing—a safe, structured community where residents and staff work together to meet goals such as a permanent place to live, employment, reunification with family, improved health, and education. The access to case management, therapy, education, and employment services gives women like Leona the stability and skills to make, find, and maintain their independence.

One of those skills, for example, is saving for the future. At Teresa’s, a Savings Incentive Program (SIP) pairs lessons on budgeting with a reward for success: a $.50 match for every $1 a woman is able to save during her time in the program. Leona has saved nearly $900 to date, money she’s earned through on-the-job training with CleanSlate, another CFW-supported organization. CleanSlate trainees keep sidewalks, parkways, and public gardens clean while getting experience with the basic competencies needed for workplace success: responsibility, reliability, teamwork.

Comprehensive support—whether it comes from a single program or through links with other programs, like those of the Eleanor Network—dramatically increases a woman’s odds of success. In fiscal year 2013, fully 76 percent of Teresa’s participants left the program for permanent housing. That’s 20 percentage points higher than the Chicago average for interim housing, and it makes Teresa’s a model for interim housing agencies across the city.

For Leona, who “graduated” from interim housing to a permanent spot at Deborah’s Place, the next goal is a GED and a permanent job. And with her life back on track, she understands just what “the grass is greener” means.

"For me, it means I had to turn the soil and change so I could grow. The grass really is greener on the other side.”