Walsh Begins Construction on New AfterCare Apartments
Our AfterCare program has come a long way since its launch in 1981. Back then, as now, our mission was to help needy and troubled children. But Father Jim Close, our then president, knew he had to do even more for our children to guarantee they always had a Home and a loving family to turn to, no matter where life took them. So Father Close created the AfterCare program as a way of ensuring our kids could always seek guidance, whenever they needed it.
Since then, AfterCare has grown along with our mission. We’ve continually sought new ways to help our former residents navigate the tricky territories of schooling, careers and managing money. Recently, we’ve recognized another important need — affordable, transitional housing — to allow these young people to take steps toward their independence without becoming overwhelmed.
Last year, we were given the opportunity to take our care of former residents to a new level when a building was donated to us in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. We’ve now gutted the building and begun construction to turn the space into apartments for 21 of our AfterCare members and their young families. Rooms will come furnished, and residents will pay rent on a sliding scale.
We’re excited that the building will be a safe, cost-effective place for our young adults to live. We’ve worked to make the structure energy-efficient — and environmentally friendly — by installing features such as UV-reflective roofing and windows designed to retain more cold and heat, as well as planting new trees on the property to provide shade. To save on waste, we’ve recycled some of the old brick from the building for planter boxes in our courtyard and refinished the current hardwood floors instead of replacing them.
This is a building that has withstood the test of time: It’s nearly 100 years old, and, with our upgrades, we’ll be able to serve our young adults in it for at least another 100. Our rehab planning was aided by a very special and generous friend — Jeanne Gang, the visionary architect best known for her work as lead architect of Chicago’s award-winning Aqua Tower.
But it will be more than just a place to live: Residents will work with AfterCare staff on steps they can take to become independent, healthy and financially responsible. They will have AfterCare resources onsite to help them with anything they need to plan for their future.
Community also plays a vital role in the new development. Apartments will be arranged in “tribes,” where multiple families will share common spaces so they can foster one another’s personal growth and lend moral support as their neighbors create better lives. There will be safe spaces indoors and a playground outside for parents to bring their children to play together.
We also look forward to becoming a positive presence in the South Shore community. In a neighborhood where many buildings are being torn down to prevent crime, we’re finding a way to do more than simply minimize problems that can lead to tragedy. We hope to set an example of how to live a life free of drugs and violence, and to partner with organizations in the community to make the neighborhood a better place for everyone.
Thank you for your support in helping our AfterCare program — and most importantly, our kids — take this huge new and unprecedented step. Because of your friendship, our children will have more opportunities to secure a bright future than they ever imagined.
To read the Autumn 2012 issue of The Waifs Messengers [Click Here]