In celebration of Women’s History Month, NBC 5 visited with a local organization that’s been helping women get on their feet since 1983.
To date, they’ve helped 30,000 people find housing.
“It was a horrible life and I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through what I went through,” said Sandra Falcon, or “Candy” as her friends call her.
Candy says that her life has informed her approach, and inspired her on her journey to helping others.
“Since the age of 13 I started drinking and smoking weed and then it progressed and progressed and progressed,” she explained. “Then in the end I was doing heroin. I was smoking crack cocaine. I was killing myself on a daily basis.”
The mother of five struggled to raise her children in the city while addicted to drugs and alcohol. Eventually life would catch up with her, as she found herself in prison for eight months at 36 years old.
“When it was time to leave, one of my counselors told me try something different,” she said. “Just give yourself a chance and that’s what I did!”
“Whatever it is we bring resources together to help support what their goal is so they can stabilize economically and achieve independence,” said Britt Shawver
Britt Shawver is the CEO of a Chicago based non-profit “Housing Opportunities for Women” or H.O.W. for short. She’s seen many women just like Candy come to them for help finding a place to live.
“We start with housing opportunities on purpose because it’s kind of the linchpin behind everything that stabilizes a family,” said Shawver.
“I cried!” laughed Candy. “And I’m not a big crier but it was a moment like WOW what did I do to deserve this?”
Those tears came when Candy contacted H.O.W. for help and they helped her get her own place to live after getting out of prison. She was able to have her children live with her again.
“They gave me an apartment right across the street from Lake Michigan so I can look out my window and see the lake every morning,” said Candy. “I can see the sunrise! It was the most fabulous place in the whole world.”
“The program works where we support a portion of the rent for people for as long as they need it and if portion is 100%, we do,” Shawver explained.
And H.O.W.’s work doesn’t stop there. They find support and services for the people they’ve housed.
“That might be rehab support,” said H.O.W. board chair, Urvi Shah. “That may be remembering how to cook. Really looking at the human and thinking about the human support that that individual needs.”
Today, Candy is proudly 20 years sober. She’s engaged to be married in May and has been able to buy a house of her own. She’s even joined H.O.W.’s board of directors to give back to the organization that helped her get to where she is today. She hopes her story inspires others who were once where she was.
“There’s a way out and you need to find it because it’s a lifesaver,” she said. “You gotta give yourself a chance. You gotta find that way!”
It really is an incredible organization. Housing Opportunities for Women is getting ready to celebrate it’s 40th anniversary this year. They have a goal of raising $1.2 million dollars to continue the work that they do in the Chicagoland area. For information on how you can help or volunteer your time with H.O.W., their website has more information.
Region: Chicago,Local,City: Chicago
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March 23, 2023 at 05:02PM