A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, April 25, 2014
Helping, Serving—One Woman at a Time (Feature Friday!)
Imagine being afraid. Downright terrified. Needing a safe place to stay. On top of that, being homeless. No place to go. Nowhere to sleep. Nothing to eat. On top of everything, you’re a woman. Got that? All of those things, rolled up into a tight ball of frantic fear and anxiety. What to do? How to cope?
There is a place to go. There is a solution. In the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, Sarah’s Circle provides a refuge for women. They may be homeless, or in need of a safe place to go, or both. Sarah’s Circle provides assistance in terms of housing, case management, referrals, and other necessities of life. In other words, this organization provides hope for women who have just about run out of hope.
A friend of mine, James, is the business manager for Sarah’s Circle. I talked with him recently. He told me this organization “is a place where any woman can come and find support no matter what their situation is.” James is quite enthusiastic about the services and other resources these caring folks provide. Their day program is open to anyone. That means—anyone. Regardless of the reasons for homelessness and loss of family, employment, living space, dignity—women can come to Sarah’s Circle and find help and hope for themselves.
In addition, this non-profit organization also supports twenty-two units of permanent housing. (This is in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.) Sarah’s Circle is an oasis in the challenging, sometimes fearsome desert that is the city of Chicago. This group helps vulnerable women through difficult times, as they rebuild their dignity, stability—their very lives.
Women have gender-specific reasons for difficulties in their lives, which include many types of trauma. Not only can homelessness be a result of poverty and domestic violence, but Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder frequently occurs. As a result, trauma can contribute to mental illness and substance abuse.
Sarah’s Circle reports: “Approximately 56% of women who are homeless have been sexually assaulted; this is more than three times the rate for homeless men and for women in the general population. Research shows a strong correlation between frequency and seriousness of past victimization and diagnosis of mental illness as well as reported drug and alcohol problems. Women are more than twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. “
Sarah’s Circle is not a religious organization, but many people of various faith expressions work or volunteer at this organization. As I reflect upon service to the poor and homeless, giving a cup of cold water to those in need, I can’t help but be reminded of the verse I’ve chosen for the month of April. Colossians 3:23 tells us “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” May I be given the willingness to go and do likewise. Please, God, may it be so.
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