When I first met Karen Foster, she came to my office with two other residents from the Jonquil Hotel. They had come to introduce themselves and share with me some of the concerns they were having with living at the Jonquil Hotel. Karen was calm in her demeanor and very thoughtful over of every word that came out of her mouth. She was the last to speak as she gave the other residents respect by letting them talk first. Karen was mostly there to provide support for the other two.
The second time I met Karen, again she came to my office with two other residents. Actually one was a former resident. This time Karen came as an advocate and a spokesperson. She was trying to assist a friend who needed a place to stay and help explain her past history.
But Karen has been receiving her education in helping others since she was young. You see, Karen and her Mom were homeless since Karen was six years old, and have been battling the road to independence since then.
Good News Partners has had the privilege of having Karen and her Mom as partners since Karen was in 7th grade. Karen and her Mom had just moved to Chicago from Baltimore where they had been bouncing from shelter to shelter. During that time Karen and her Mom rode the buses all night until they were able to find a place. The place wound up being near a waste facility and was unbearable for the average person. Karen describes her time being homeless as feeling "discarded" and feeling like she stuck out like a sore thumb for being homeless. Karen also said that people were condescending to them because of their situation.
In 2006, Karen and her Mom moved into the New Life Shelter. Karen started attending Gale Elementary school and later graduated from Sullivan High School. Karen and her Mom moved into one of the other Good News Partners buildings (the Lloyd) before moving into the Jonquil Hotel.
Initially, Karen was upset because they had to move to the Jonquil Hotel because they had finally moved into their apartment and stable living seemed to have been taken from her. After a few weeks, Karen found that the Jonquil Hotel was the most stable of all the places she had lived. She was able to find community and friends. She was also able to launch her own independence in securing her own unit. Karen has been able work
part-time while going to school in order to pay for her own unit.
I believe that if we had more financial resources to hire more staff, offer more services and update the units where our partners live, we could have even more impact on people like Karen and her mom.
We could have never scripted Karen and her Mom moving from Baltimore to Chicago, finding the New Life Shelter, moving into one of our apartments (The Lloyd Building), and then moving into the Jonquil, a more financially affordable unit. We cannot take credit for the motivation Karen maintained graduating from high school, going away to school, returning back to college after a health set-back, and now a quarter away from graduating with her degree. We cannot take credit for the interest Karen has in helping others who have gone through what she has gone through.
We have not been perfect. We have not had all the services people need. We have not had the most beautiful of accommodations. We have gone through changes organizationally and have had to cut some services through the years but we have, and continue to be available.
Please consider partnering with us as we continue to make ourselves available to people like Karen and her mom. People are made in the image of God and we have been asked to take care of them and serve them with a place to live and belong.
-Rene Alavarado, Interim Director, Good News Partners