Do you ever find yourself making the same resolution every new year? We do here at Primo Center, and it is simple: End family homelessness in Chicago. While we have yet to reach this ambitious goal, we are not discouraged. In fact, our resolve, persistence and incredible staff are helping make significant progress. More families with children are receiving comprehensive support through Primo Center every year, but there’s still much to be done to bring homelessness to functional zero. I believe in my heart that we can succeed, and let me share with you why I’m optimistic.
Entering the new decade, I reflect on the significant changes I’ve witnessed during my career regarding different approaches to addressing housing instability for families with children. Nearly 25 years ago, when I started working as a clinician in child mental health and welfare issues, I witnessed a high prevalence of trauma for children and families and its deep and lasting impact on their lives. Those experiences and insights changed me and the way I approach the complex issues of homelessness.
In the last 40 years, Primo Center has evolved and grown to become the largest provider of services and homeless shelter for families and children in Chicago, distinguished by our comprehensive and innovative approach to care. This means we partner with, and care for parents and children across all life domains—health, education and housing. We make it a priority to provide integrated physical, dental and mental health services for children and families through partnerships with federally qualified health providers. Our trauma-informed approach allows us to meet our families where they are and develop a plan that meets the needs of individual family members, and empowers parents to support their children and families.
We know these innovative approaches work. Primo Center consistently places more than 90% of clients in permanent housing, with only a 5 percent rate of return to homelessness. This in contrast to Chicago’s overall return to homelessness rate of 18 percent. We help ensure every family can access resources and support needed to feel empowered in order to get back on their feet and reach their full potential. And we stay connected. For example, when Primo Center families transition into permanent housing, they often stay in touch and continue to benefit from Primo Center family support services.
In 2020 Primo Center will continue addressing the needs and causes of family homelessness; building and expanding our partnerships; increasing the number of beds in interim housing from 297 to 350; and sharing our model and insights with partners in other cities. For example, I serve as a technical advisor to teams in New York City working to address family homelessness.
There is no more powerful gift than to change the life of a child and family by helping provide shelter and a pathway out of homelessness. I encourage you to resolve in 2020 to join our efforts by applying to be a volunteer at one of our facilities in North Lawndale, West Humboldt Park, Auburn Gresham and Englewood.
I hope that you will stay in touch with us by frequently visiting our website for news and following us on social media. I know that one year soon we will accomplish our resolution to end family homelessness in Chicago.
— Christine Achre, CEO