Those who find a home with Mercy Housing Lakefront have often struggled with some of life’s toughest challenges. Once they have stable, affordable housing, people often need additional support to address the ongoing effects of these challenges. That’s why we provide a comprehensive mix of services: We empower working families to overcome poverty; we provide the support needed for seniors to continue to live independently; we offer resources that help kids do better in school; we provide the tools to help people who have been homeless stabilize their housing, improve their health, and achieve self-sufficiency.
If you are with a community agency or service provider (mobile health clinics, kids programming, county or city government agencies, fitness teacher, financial advisor for low-income individuals, etc.) and want to help, please contact us. We’d be happy to customize a partnership opportunity with your organization.
Improving Resident Health
There is a clear link between a lack of stable housing and health. That’s why housing is just the beginning of our approach.
Once a resident is housed, our overall commitment is to support their long-term stability through comprehensive services, including health services. With assistance from our partners, we’re able to address a variety of health issues that affect our residents, including trauma, economic insufficiencies, limited or lacking access to health benefits and services, and access to nutrition and healthy foods. We provide healthy homes, including Universal Design elements and fitness rooms on-site at our properties to encourage increased physical activity.
We ensure residents have access to the health resources they need by connecting them with benefits and community-based health providers, such as our primary partner Near North Health Services Corporation, allowing us to address health challenges and chronic health conditions that our residents face.
Addressing Chronic Health Conditions through Our Community Health Worker Program
Many of our Chicago residents struggle with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, conditions which may be a cause or a result of time spent without stable housing. Although these chronic health conditions can be managed with the right resources and access to healthcare, they can be unmanageable and become more severe due to homelessness and/or a disability.
To address this, in 2018 we launched a pilot program at three of our Chicago Permanent Supportive Housing residences to help residents manage their chronic health conditions. Individuals who have lived experiences similar to the residents they serve – including other current residents of our housing properties – work part-time as Community Health Workers and receive ongoing training on how best to support the program participants with their health challenges. The Community Health Workers work with residents one-on-one and in group settings, meeting them where they’re at and empowering them to take ownership of their health.
The program hired six Community Health Workers, five of whom were Mercy Housing Lakefront residents. In its first year, the program served more than 100 residents.
Learn more about one Community Health Worker’s experiences here
Health and Wellness Challenge
To encourage residents to improve all aspects of their health, Mercy Housing Lakefront hosts a Feel Better Challenge each summer. Residents can participate in a variety of activities in different communities, including exercise groups, walks through the city, nature hikes, art therapy activities, healthy eating workshops, and opportunities for self-reflection to determine how they can achieve an overall healthy lifestyle. Participants can also lead their own activities for (or with) their peers and earn prizes and complete challenges, creating a fun environment while improving their health.
After eight years, the Feel Better Challenge has continued to thrive and now serves over 100 residents at 12 buildings. It is also being expanded to other Mercy Housing regions. It promotes improved health and wellness, while encouraging participants work to make improvements alongside neighbors.See how residents participated in Feel Better
Healing Through Art and Music
Mercy Housing Lakefront’s Art Therapy Program provides a creative, non-judgmental, and safe environment for residents to use expression and visual art to build community. Residents bond with each other through storytelling and sharing their feelings, past experiences, and daily struggles. Art therapists assist residents on their path toward independence, recovery, increased self-awareness, and empowerment through open art studio time, as well as art-based assessments.
The Art Therapy Program serves formerly homeless and at-risk individuals who reside in Permanent Supportive Housing properties in Chicago. We have begun to incorporate music therapy into the program to further enrich this therapeutic service.Read More About the Exhibit
Creating Community through Amenities
Mercy Housing Lakefront provides more than individual homes. Homes are the building blocks of communities, and our properties include community rooms, computer rooms, outdoor space, and playgrounds wherever possible. These amenities contribute to the creation of a community for residents, which we foster through events and activities including resident meetings, holiday celebrations, café-style common areas, access to technology, programs for kids, and more. Activities prevent seniors from becoming isolated, give kids an opportunity for after-school and summer activities, and create networks of support for families.
One new way we’re creating community at our Chicago properties is through a “café approach.” Community rooms are being turned into gathering places to reduce individual isolation and provide wireless internet access. Particularly at Permanent Supportive Housing, where residents often live in one-person studios, this type of community space invites residents to form connections and support networks. It also allows for our staff to better engage residents in a less formal setting. The first Café model was implemented at the Schiff Apartments in 2018, and we are planning to implement it at the South Loop Apartments and St. Catherine Residence.
Families with children often struggle to find affordable child-care or after-school activities, particularly when parents are working full-time. After-school and summer activities provide children with opportunities to work on homework with assistance from staff and volunteers, play with their peers, go on field trips and educational visits to museums, and attend onsite workshops. Activities and events are tailored to specific communities, ensuring that children are connected with local resources.Learn more about the impact on the Moore family
Access to Technology
For those re-entering the work force or seeking employment opportunities, access to computers and the internet is critical. Computer access also allows children to complete homework and assists seniors hoping to keep up with technological advances. At Mercy Housing Lakefront communities, we include computer rooms for resident use wherever possible. Additionally, some of our properties now feature electronic message boards in the lobby, which keep residents apprised of community events and public announcements.
Building Financial Capacity
Mercy Housing Lakefront resident have access to financial literacy and capacity building services. We work with residents to empower them to improve their financial capability and work toward financial goals they set for their future. Across our communities, we connect residents with partners who provide trainings and information on budgeting, savings, and financial tools and products.
In 2017, we launched an Asset Building Ladder program at our Lofts on Arthington property in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood in partnership with JPMorgan Chase Foundation. The program is designed to empower residents to better manage their financial present and future while acknowledging systemic causes of economic inequality. Mercy Housing Lakefront staff received program design support from the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now (formerly CFED) and Credit Builders Alliance, while partnering with many local organizations on implementation. The program has now expanded to serve residents at our 850 Eastwood and Pullman Wheelworks properties.
Through the Asset Building Ladder Program, residents begin the process of creating and living within a family budget, they have access to credit improvement through rent reporting and receive financial coaching by individuals from our partner organizations. Initial outcomes show the program has assisted with on-time rent payments. In January 2018, just 61 percent of residents were paying rent on time at the Lofts on Arthington. With financial coaching and collaboration between resident services and property management staff in proactively working on payment plans, on-time rent payments improved to 81 percent by April 2019.Find out how Lottie set her financial goals
Mercy Housing Lakefront is committed to the use of best practices in Resident Services delivery, program evaluation, and program model development. Mercy Housing Lakefront follows a total quality improvement and project management format. We have rigorous monitoring and evaluation standards to assess the impact of our programming and constantly improve, refine, and evolve resident services. The practices in use are reviewed annually to ensure they represent the most efficient approaches available based on the population and setting.
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