“Today is one of the greatest days!” said Margie with a wide smile. Not only did she receive the keys to her apartment, but at 58 years old her aspirations of independence have finally come to fruition. Early on she had dreams to be an artist-her talents even led her to be accepted to the Chicago Art Institute. However when her loans fell through it became financially impossible-she had no choice but to push this dream to the wayside. Without formal training or the means to purchase supplies, a career in fine arts was impossible. Later in life Margie found herself facing numerous dilapidating hardships and losses. Ultimately the loss of her house sent her into a place that seemed beyond escape; without anywhere to go Margie became homeless. For nine years she fluctuated between living with friends and going in and out of shelters. In this time she held numerous odd jobs, but ongoing financial struggles keeping her from pursuing her art, and from stability.
After these many years of struggle, Margie found A Safe Haven. “A Safe Haven has been a God sent. As soon as I arrived everyone was so helpful and encouraging, the case managers and staff have given me strength”. Since her arrival Margie has found friendship and encouragement, both to overcome her hardships and to continue her artwork. She participated in financial literacy and STRIVE Training and now assists in the ASHF Medical Clinic- coordinating appointments and interacting with patients. She has even graced the walls of A Safe Haven with her artwork-adding color by decorating the frames of poetry written by ASHF residents participating in Art Therapy. Through all this time her faith and the words of her mother to “just do the best you can” keep her strong. Now the future is bright-Margie intends to continue her art and even write a book about her experiences. Ultimately, Margie credits A Safe Haven for giving her the opportunity to find herself again: “Today I have my own apartment-a place to start from, a place to work towards my goals”.
“Music is the center of my life-it keeps me grounded” says Sidney. Once, Sidney had dreams of becoming a professional musician. At eight years old he began playing the piano and singing harmonies. By the time he reached high-school Sidney had extended his musical repertoire- he was a talented oboist. He played in the school band as well as the All City Orchestra which allowed him opportunities to perform alongside students from prestigious institutions such as the American Conservatory of Music. His talents led him to be accepted to study music at Northwestern University. However, after two years, Sidney realized how limited opportunities were in the world of professional music. The challenges became overwhelming and Sidney saw no choice but to drop out. In need of a viable career he soon enlisted in the Navy. After spending several years stationed in Japan, he returned to Chicago to find his musical opportunities limited and instead began a career in retail management.
The loss of loved ones and the weight of his past took a toll on Sidney and he struggled for many years with the disease of addiction to alcohol. Without anywhere to turn, Sidney suffered from chronic homelessness. After an entire year on the streets he knew he needed help to turn his life around. That is when Sidney was recommended to A Safe Haven. Since arriving he has made tremendous progress towards coming to terms with his struggles and achieving stability. Thanks to A Safe Haven Sidney says “Now I have a handle on my past”. Going into the future, he confirms that music will always be a part of his life; “I enjoy performing, not only is it comforting for me, but I enjoy pleasing the audience and taking in their reactions”; for Sidney and many others, music has a true healing power.
Born and raised in North Lawndale, Shun never imagined himself to be an artist. As a child he would often sketch his favorite cartoons and super heroes, but he never had the opportunity to pursue his talents. Shun became involved with drugs and fell into a vicious cycle of incarceration and recidivism. As a self-taught artist, Shun only discovered his talent for sketching portraits after his daughter asked him to draw her. From then on, Shun spent much of his time in prison sketching. After his 6th stint in prison, Shun knew that he needed to make a change in his life. This time he would do things differently; this time he enrolled at A Safe Haven.
While living at A Safe Haven Shun took part in a wide variety of services; he has gained skills in financial literacy and participated in pre-employment training; a month ago Shun moved into his own apartment. “I give all my thanks to A Safe Haven for putting me on the right path” says Shun, “Once I came here I started to have positive things in my life that I never had before”. In particular he thanks A Safe Haven staff Anthony, Richard and Margarita for all their guidance and endless support in helping him to get to where he is today. As for his art, Shun explains that it is a hobby, he enjoys seeing the reactions of those he sketches for; but art is not something he feels he could build a viable career on. Instead Shun had embraced another one of his passions: food, and currently works full time in the restaurant industry. The journey to stability has not been easy, however Shun is committed to staying positive and staying focused, and with that determination there is no stopping him from continued success.
Coming off a 12 hour night-shift at a local bakery, Thomas is tired but cheerful. Guitar in hand, he speaks about his ongoing journey towards stability. In his younger years, Thomas had aspirations to become a professional musician. Since 12 years old he has had a passion and an affinity for the guitar, however as Thomas said, “life happens”. When he was 19 years old, his first son was born; with a young family to care for he had no choice but to put his dreams on the back burner and choose a more stable career path. Over the years he has kept up his music, occasionally performing alongside friends and even professionally recording some of his best work. However, raising his family was always the priority and Thomas never had the opportunity to pursue music as a full-time career. Several months ago life took and unexpected turn again: Thomas suddenly lost his job. Without steady income he and his wife were unable to keep their apartment and family members did not have space for the both of them, Thomas turned to A Safe Haven.
At A Safe Haven, Thomas has found a place that is welcoming and supportive: “I am blessed to have gotten into a place like this. Here I can collect my thoughts”. Since arriving, Thomas has secured a full time job and is working hard to save up for a deposit on an apartment. In the meantime he has not forgotten about his passion for music. Thomas explains that stardom is no longer for him, instead he says “I find real joy in teaching my grandsons the guitar, they have an affinity for it”. Thomas is dedicated to working hard so that he can watch his grandsons succeed. Through this internal motivation, combined with the support of A Safe Haven, Thomas is well on his way to re-establishing stability and achieving long-term self-sufficiency.
Jeff fondly remember the beginnings of his passion for music; he recalls singing gospel music alongside his mother at only 5 years old. Now 58, he explains that in his younger years, thanks to the urging of family and friends, he even entered several singing contests, racking up thousands of dollars in prize money! Despite his early successes, Jeff explains “this is just a hobby, I do it because I love to entertain, I love to sing, but it’s not something I would try to build a career on”. Instead, Jeff chose other fields that he would equally enjoy but would provide him a stable income and the opportunity to plan for the future. Despite Jeff’s ambitious nature, hardships are sometimes unexpected. Several months ago following an unforeseen sell-out from his landlord, Jeff had nowhere to go and was left homeless. However, as an army veteran honorably discharged due to injury, Jeff is no stranger to resilience.
Jeff realized after losing his home that not everything can be planned. Through a recommendation by the VA, Jeff found A Safe Haven. Since arriving at A Safe Haven, Jeff has taken advantage of many opportunities and is looking forward to moving into a new apartment in the coming weeks. He is also working for A Safe Haven Landscaping, which has given him the chance to embrace another one of his passions-the outdoors. More importantly, Jeff found a place to regroup while he plans his next step. While it has been no easy journey, he has not lost his positivity or sense of direction. Music still brings Jeff the same joy it did all those years ago; “It is something I have always loved and always will”.