For nearly 40 years, the mission of the Primo Center has been to empower families to become productive, responsible and independent members of their community. Holding true to the values of the Primo Center's founder, the late Bishop Quintin Primo Jr., the agency's goal is to create innovative programming for some of Chicago's most vulnerable residents, homeless women and children.
The Primo Center invests in resources that are key to addressing homelessness-- housing, which includes 184 units of shelter and 90 units of permanent housing; trauma-informed wraparound mental health services; early childhood services; a violence prevention program for at-risk youth in schools and community centers; and integrated health care, which matches physical health with behavioral health care homes. These core investments come from a deep understanding of the population served. Studies show that 93% of homeless women have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime. Their children are equally vulnerable, with 62% having been exposed to violence-- 83% for homeless children over the age 12. Not surprisingly, 47% of school-aged children who have been homeless experience severe anxiety, depression or withdrawal. In response, all of the Primo Center's services are trauma-informed, creating a unique therapeutic community that provides a safe setting dedicated to helping families heal. This distinctive approach to meeting client needs has resulted in outstanding outcomes. With 91% of families placed into permanent housing and only 5% returning to homelessness, the Primo Center supports families to regain their independence and end their homelessness permanently.
This agency expertise has also resulted in exponential growth for the Primo Center, which went from providing 22 beds of shelter to a multi-site social service organization that served 440 children and their families during calendar year 2015. This growth has included a 700% increase in beds and an almost 300% increase in the operating budget over the last four years.