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The Impact You Don’t See (And Why That’s A Good Thing)

Black and white photograph of old PADS shelter

If I’ve learned anything over my past 25 years leading Housing Forward, it’s that working to end homelessness requires community buy-in, adaptability, and intentionality. 

As we’ve evolved as an organization, our vision has remained unchanged, but our mission continues to be refined. The early years of ‘PADS’ programming was designed to respond to the symptoms of homelessness. Today, our work is to transition people from their housing crisis to housing stability. We work with individuals and families to help them move from a mode of constant survival, that is often synonymous with homelessness, to long-term safety and stability. We continue to benefit from the support of hundreds of volunteers, community partners, and programmatic partners. 

As I look ahead, I am excited for what is to come this year. We’re a month away from opening our first fixed-site Permanent Supportive Housing building in Broadview. We are determining the scope of renovation needed to improve the former Write Inn Hotel at 211 North Oak Park Avenue. This building is being converted into a welcoming and permanent home for our Interim Housing and Medical Respite Programs, both of which were formed during the COVID pandemic . We are launching several new programs this year that will work upstream to divert individuals and families at the onset of a housing crisis. We are deepening existing partnerships and building connections with new partners such as Sarah’s Inn, Cook County Health, and the Department of Children and Family Services (to name a few). Simply put, we’re building a better response to the crisis of homelessness and strengthening the region’s safety net.

The Housing Forward of 2024 would not exist without the actions of a group of volunteers and congregations thirty-one years ago. From modest beginnings, Housing Forward, known then as Tri-Village PADS, emerged as a response to the pressing homelessness crisis in west suburban Cook County. In its first year, Tri-Village PADS served 120 people by addressing their shelter needs.  Despite the small size and scope, we laid a strong foundation for growth that could keep pace with the ever-increasing number of neighbors in need - though, I don’t think anyone anticipated we’d serve more than 17,000 individuals and families in the next three decades. 

As the landscape of homelessness has changed, we’ve had to adapt as an organization. In 2023, U.S. Homelessness reached a record high. There was a 12 percent increase in individuals in shelters, temporary housing, and unsheltered settings. COVID-era funding, eviction protections and housing programs have largely ended, and we are beginning to see the ripple effects. 

Our approach to ending homelessness takes this new reality into account. Although our presence in west suburban Cook County is significant, you might not see it. Here’s why:  

  • Every year we prevent hundreds of people from losing their homes and from experiencing the crisis of homelessness through our emergency assistance and diversion programs.
  • Our Interim Housing program shelters and stabilizes more than 100 people every year who would otherwise have spent their nights in our emergency shelter and their days on the streets. 
  • Every day, hundreds of individuals and families are regaining their independence in apartments throughout this community thanks to private landlords who partner with us on our Rapid Re-Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing programs. 

If you are not seeing our clients means we’re succeeding – it means more people are being diverted from homelessness, responded to once a housing crisis occurs, and stabilized in permanent housing. Our work is less “public” than it used to be and we’re serving more people than ever, because we’re willing to adapt, respond, and evolve. 

In 2024, we continue to look for new ways to support the community and push the boundaries of what is possible. We are grateful for your ongoing support and partnership as we continue to work toward our mission to end homelessness. 

Lynda Schueler
CEO, Housing Forward

For Media Inquiries Contact

Libby Foster
708.338.1724 ext 211