Local homeless outreach group Hands To Help ceases operations
by BRIAN NADIG
Hands to Help Ministries is ceasing operations at the end of 2020 after providing resources for more than 10 years to the homeless and families at-risk of losing their home in the Irving Park area.
“Our board made the decision because it’s been too hard to keep everything going,” said Barbara Wahler, a license clinical social worker who served as the group’s services manager. “There were just a couple of us. We had at the end of 2019 been looking to recruit new members. We had some good prospects at the beginning of 2020 … and then everything kind of shut down (due to the pandemic).”
The organization operated out of Saint John’s Episcopal Church, 3857 N. Kostner Ave. After the real estate market crashed in 2007, there was an initiative among churchgoers to help the homeless, and the group was created, Wahler said. “Things took off from there,” she said.
Hands To Help usually had office hours on Wednesdays and Fridays, and a breakfast prepared by an outreach worker attracted visitors. In 2019, the organization made 207 contacts with individuals either at the office or on the street, and for several years the group conducted homeless outreach in the Six Corners shopping district.
During the pandemic, Hands To Help conducted much of it business by talking to clients over the phone, Wahler said.
The organization would help individuals find work or affordable housing and obtain a state identification card, and Ventra/CTA cards would be reloaded with credit for those in-between jobs, Wahler said. In addition, some families might have a utility bill or a portion of their monthly rent paid.
One of the biggest challenges facing the community is the lack of affordable housing, as higher rents due to gentrification are forcing families from their homes, Wahler said.
The organization may have as much as $30,000 in remaining funds, and efforts are being made to donate those funds to other nonprofits which help the homeless or have a mission similar to Hands To Help, Wahler said.