May 08Warm Hearts
Coronavirus has created a lot of uncertainty, but the unknown is familiar territory for Mercy Housing. It’s how we’ve been able to weather recessions, natural disasters, and many other unexpected current events for nearly 40 years.
We serve families, veterans, seniors, and people with special needs that have low incomes, with stable affordable homes. To do this to the best of our abilities, we listen to residents. A person’s home is tied to everything — it’s the center of daily life. To serve the people that need it most, we’ve had to be consistent in an inconsistent world.
It feels like a lifetime away, but last year in January 2019, much of the country, Mercy Housing residents too, faced a challenge, the polar vortex. What do epic winter storms have to do with coronavirus, you ask — again, uncertainty. Chicago was one of the places where life-threatening low temperatures posed unique challenges that could’ve proven deadly for Mercy Housing residents had they not stayed calm and collected.
Much of the city hunkered down at home to avoid the dangerously low wind chill temperatures. But Alma, the property manager and John, the maintenance manager at Mercy Housing’s Countryside Senior Apartments braved the bone-chilling weather. They went into work because they couldn’t stand the thought of just sitting idly by and letting residents wait out the storm without them.
Throughout the day, Commonwealth Edison, the local electric provider, was experiencing a strain on their electric grids and Countryside Senior Apartments had brownouts (temporary and sporadic power outages). One evening, when the weather forecast said there would be a drop of -50 degrees Fahrenheit, they became deeply concerned about residents. Then, they heard that the electricity in the building went off, and the entire neighborhood was affected. This Mercy Housing community had generators for lighting and use of the elevator, the heat for the building is electric, so it was off. These were some of the coldest temperatures on record. The police and fire departments rushed to the property to inform residents that the power outage was anticipated to last three hours.
Dedicated to Serve
With such extreme temperatures, the staff and local authorities were worried about the 70 senior residents that called Countryside Senior Apartments home. The police and fire departments offered to transport residents away to stations – serving as the area’s warming center.
Alma and John returned to the building and knocked on each residents’ doors, giving them the option to be transported to the warming station or stay in their Mercy Housing homes. Their compassion meant a lot to residents, keeping them calm, and offering yet another reminder that home is hope.
Not one resident made the decision to leave for the warming station. Each resident found solace with one another and Alma and John.
Cozy With Community
The residents gathered on the first-floor community room where the generator gave them light, warmth, and comfort. Residents enjoyed spending time together around the fireplace and played and listened to music. They sang, danced, laughed, and enjoyed time together. As they shared snacks and played games, they waited for the electricity to come back.
Alma and John kept residents updated and comforted throughout the night. They made sure any immediate needs were addressed and they were, most importantly, present with residents. This could’ve been a frightening time, but instead it was an impromptu opportunity to strengthen a sense of community. Together, they faced darkness and cold with respect and mercy. The atmosphere was fun at a time that could’ve been filled with panic and fear.
Together, The Only Way Forward
Together, residents, Alma, and John shared Mercy Housing’s values and got through a difficult time. Stories like these, stories of hope happen every day at Mercy Housing. With all that’s been happening in the world with COVID-19, communities are coming together and continue to keep us inspired.
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