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Gaining Confidence for a New Life

By Maggie Snow and Colleen Conwood

Gaining Confidence for a New Life

Maria, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, arrived at Catholic Charities’ Kathy Paulsen Hope House over the winter. At the time, her only home was an abandoned store with no utilities. Maria, 23, was desperate for help and grateful to be accepted into Catholic Charities’ program. She was welcomed into the warm and comfortable shelter after experiencing homelessness.

The Kathy Paulsen Hope House in DuPage County provides housing and supportive services to individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. During a short stay, participants work toward securing a sustainable income and permanent housing. This environment felt like a perfect fit for Maria to stabilize her situation.

Shortly after Maria moved into the Kathy Paulsen Hope House, she revealed to staff that her sister, also in her early 20s, was also homeless and living in a shed. Maria’s sister was also welcomed to Hope House. One of the first goals for Hope House participants is to gain employment. Both sisters worked hard and earned part-time employment, which grew into full-time work.

Once income was secured, the staff at the shelter informed the women that it was time to start looking for housing. Maria and her sister didn’t seem enthusiastic about this next step. They toured apartment after apartment in their price range, but never moved forward. When the young women returned from viewing apartments, they always seemed disappointed and defeated.

An interventional meeting was held to try to understand the situation. When staff met with the women, they explained that they had grown up in foster care and didn’t have any experience with permanent housing.

The team at Kathy Paulsen Hope House then began to arm the sisters with the knowledge they needed to make an informed decision about housing. Maria and her sister learned questions to ask the landlords. They also learned about the background checks and credit checks that would be required of them to secure housing.

This knowledge about the process of renting an apartment gave the sisters the confidence they needed. They found an apartment they both liked, submitted applications and returned to the Kathy Paulsen Hope House with their heads held high. Within a couple of days, Maria and her sister learned that their application for the apartment was accepted, which thrilled them. The concept of having a place of their own after experiencing homelessness was so exciting.

Maria and her sister admitted that they never believed that they could live in their own apartment or have furnishings for it. Catholic Charities began referrals for furniture and kitchen items. It was a dream come true for these sisters.

On moving day, both women woke up bright and early to pack their bags, clean their room at the shelter, and wait for a taxi to take them to their new apartment. As they waited, Maria told shelter staff that the meeting about housing empowered them to advocate for themselves. She said that the meeting truly gave them the confidence they needed to obtain an apartment. When the taxi arrived, the sisters nearly skipped out the door with joy. They were ready for their new lives.


The Kathy Paulsen Hope House

The Kathy Paulsen Hope House shelter in DuPage County recently expanded from 18 beds to 30 beds in response to increased need during the pandemic. Some participants stay at the shelter and others receive services while staying at a nearby hotel.

The Kathy Paulsen Hope House also provides the only 24-hour crisis line to assist in the single point of entry process for homeless services in DuPage County. To learn more about the Kathy Paulsen Hope House and other programs and services provided by Catholic Charities in DuPage County, visit www.catholiccharitiesjoliet.org.