For PADS guests with children, special steps are taken, said St. John PADS site captain Dale Nowicki. Along with sleeping apart from the general population, mothers and children get special help from an intake social worker, who tries to assess ways they can get housing.

Sadie, 25, from Hillside and pregnant, brought two children, Daveion, age 2, and Katelyn, age 3 to St. John’s on Friday night.

“This is my first time here,” she said. She said she took the bus from the city then walked with the children in the bitter cold.  

Although she works full-time at a McDonald’s near O’Hare, the loss of her weekend temp job at a food distributor didn’t leave her with enough money to keep her apartment in Hillside. She couldn’t rent another unless she could come up with a security deposit and proof that she brought in at least double her rent in income. The children sometimes stay in daycare or with relatives, and she’s bounced from relative home to home and from shelters in the city. 

“It’s hard,” she said, feeding her son a spoonful of fruit.  

Social work intern Angela Franco, of DePaul interviewed Sadie and got her a Ventra card, which are given out at a case worker’s discretion.  

Yvonne, 47, has been making the rounds of the shelters for two months with her five-year-old daughter. 

“At first I was crying in the bathroom,” she said. “But we’ve gotten used to it. Now I know some people here and we’re like a big family.” She said she has to be protective of her daughter and she feels motivated to do what it takes to get out of her situation.

“I had four big bags I was carrying around with our stuff in them. And now we’re down to two little backpacks, mine and hers.”

Divorced after taking care of a disabled husband, she said she couldn’t find work without a GED. She stays with her daughter at the PADS Support Center, 1851 S. Ninth Ave., in Maywood, during the day where she’s getting help enrolling in classes.

“They have laundry and computers and real showers there, and I’m working with a case worker and some counsellors.”

She grew weary of depending on family members.  “You can visit your family but then you have to come back here and it just gets harder.”

“I know I’m not out of my mind, and I didn’t pick this,” she said. “The more I stay angry, the more I will try to get out of this situation.”

Finding a job is daunting after being a stay-at-home mother for many years.

“This is so hard, but if I’m surviving this, I’ll be able to do anything.”

—Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...