A family of eight, including six children, finally have a roof over their heads after living for months in their minivan in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. The family has been placed in a four-bedroom apartment in the North Lawndale neighborhood thanks to the support of many.
But getting to that point wasn’t easy.
“I’m actually happy we have a place now. It’s a lot better than where I was in,” said Alicia, the mother of the children, ages 1 to 14. “I actually get to rest, we have space, I can cook whatever I want. … I’m glad my kids get more than they need in the moment.”
It has been a challenging year for Alicia, her partner and their children. Before the minivan became their home, the family lived with Alicia’s father. But in May 2023, her father passed away and they were forced out of his apartment.
Alicia’s partner and father of her children worked full-time at a local restaurant. But it was not enough to afford rent, and feeding the children became a daily struggle.
Day and night, the family parked their minivan in an empty lot in the Austin neighborhood. It wasn’t comfortable, especially at night, but Alicia said it was their only choice to keep their kids safe.
For many families in the Chicago area, finding a permanent place to live can be a real struggle. Such is the case for Alicia, her partner and her six children ages 1 to 14. Since May 2023, the family says they have been living in their mini-van. Sandra Torres has the story.
NBC Chicago first met the family after hearing from State Rep. La Shawn Ford. After the story aired, NBC 5 viewers and multiple local organizations reached out offering to help. The mayor of Broadview, Katrina Thompson, even paid for a 10-day hotel stay for the family.
“Really, a team effort to help someone with six children, a loving mother, loving father,” said Rep. Ford, who became invested in helping the family from the moment he met them. “They love their kids, they fell on hard times after the loss of Felicia’s dad.”
Rep. Ford also created a GoFundMe page for the family, raising close to $25,000. However, while the financial support was there for them to obtain a home, the family faced numerous obstacles while trying to apply for housing.
“It’s a challenging process to get an apartment when you’re homeless,” said Rep. Ford. “You have to have someone there with you advocating every step of the way. I can’t believe there was some denials because of rental history. There was a denial because of a ComEd bill in collections. … It speaks to why so many people are homeless.”
After a months-long search, a local landlord finally accepted their application with the help of the organization Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund, known as CLIHTF.
“The Chicago Low Income Trust Fund is one of the best kept secrets in the city of Chicago,” said Annissa Lambirth-Garrett, executive director of CLIHTF, an organization that has been in Chicago for over 35 years.
Lambirth-Garrett said the organization supports families who may be overlooked. They may have an income, but they may not have enough to support their everyday living expenses.
“We are able to subsidize units and lower the market rates so that families can afford to live,” said Lambirth-Garrett.
Alicia and her family now have a place to live, thanks to CLIHTF. The apartment isn’t fully furnished yet. The family is sleeping on air mattresses while they wait for furniture donated by another local organization.
But for now, it’s a drastic change from the conditions they lived in a few months ago. And they couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who has stepped up to help them.
“I look at it as a blessing, knowing where I came from and the stuff that happened, it’s unbelievable,” said Alicia. “I’m truly grateful for you all, if it wasn’t for you all, I wouldn’t be here. Thank you for helping me and my family.”