As holidays near, more might go without meals

With Thanksgiving mere hours away, visions of drumsticks, gravy boats and mountains of mashed potatoes are swirling throughout the minds of adults and children around the country.

But for some who are facing hunger and poverty, these visions might be more hopes and dreams than reality.

About 95,000 DuPage residents are considered food insecure by Feeding America, a national hunger relief charity. This means that more than ten percent of DuPage residents don’t know where or if they will find their next meal.

“There’s so much need out there – it’s unbelievable,” said Jody Bender, the community relations director at Loaves & Fishes, a Naperville food pantry that provides meals and groceries for DuPage county and Naperville residents. [Read more…]

Homeless remain mostly unseen in the suburbs

Jill Markussen clearly remembers the day she told a Hinsdale woman she was homeless.

“I thought she was going to have a stroke,” Markussen laughed, recalling the woman’s surprised face. “I’m not what you think of when you think of a homeless person.”

Markussen, 49, lives in Bartlett with her three kids. She dresses professionally. She runs her own non-profit. She’ll finish her degree in psychology from Governors State University in December.

Even to herself, she doesn’t seem like a stereotypical homeless person.

But she is. [Read more…]

Safe sex a priority in the shelter

A version of this story appeared in the September 2011 issue of The Homeless Voice. It is a product of the Society of Professional Journalists Will Write for Food program.

All three times Chris and Dana have had sex at COSAC Homeless Shelter in Hollywood, Fla., she’s asked him not to use a condom. And he hasn’t.

For shelter founder and director Sean Cononie, this is a big problem.

He called the couple, who have been dating for about two weeks, into his office Saturday night to talk. Cononie’s concerned about the spread of sexually transmitted infections, particularly HIV, in his shelter and among people he considers family.

“Would you stick your penis in a meat grinder?” Cononie asks Chris, an olive-skinned man with his name tattooed in script on his neck. [Read more…]

La Casa housing project offers hope to Latino college students, Pilsen community


Construction begins at La Casa

“Look to your left and right. One of you won’t be graduating. Most of you will end up dead, pregnant or dropping out.”

Monica Lepe was in a room full of freshmen like herself at Benito Juarez Community Academy when her principal announced this the first day of school.

“Wow. That right there said a lot,” said Lepe, 20, who remembers that moment every day she walks through the neighborhood where she was born and raised. “I remember looking to the left and right, and both of those people did not graduate.”

Lepe graduated and is now studying at Malcolm X College, but she says she doesn’t know where most of her freshman class ended up. “Some of those people are dead.”

What with Juarez having three times the state’s drop-out rate, Lepe said she expected resources and encouragement to help overcome the trend. What she remembers is getting a free pass to continue business as usual.

It’s a problem The Resurrection Project homed in on: Not enough students are achieving in high school and going on to college, leaving a dearth of knowledge in primarily Hispanic Pilsen. [Read more…]

Customer service through social media

Have you ever tried to get in touch with someone via email, and they just refuse to answer you?

I was running into this problem with a bakery I was hoping to work with for my upcoming wedding. I initially contacted them to see what they offered. I got a response a few days later (which, to someone who nearly always responds to emails within 24 hours, seemed like a lifetime). Last week I shot them another email wanting to finalize an order. No response. This week I sent another email. No response. I was getting anxious – wedding planning has been stressful, and I wanted to get things nailed down. I even went to the bakery’s brick and mortar location and was told I needed to contact the person via email (the same one I’d been trying to reach).

Yesterday I was on the bakery’s Facebook page when I noticed its Twitter feed. Though my emails were going unreturned, I saw that tweets were posted multiple times per day – one even within the last two hours. I quickly sent them a tweet:




[Read more…]