Housing Forward recently reopened its Maywood headquarters roughly a year after a fire and flooding forced the organization to move its central staff to other facilities and temporarily close its support center. The nonprofit provides assistance to individuals experiencing homelessness across the western suburbs, and opened its first shelter site at First United Church of Christ in Forest Park in 1992. 

During a June 21 open house, Housing Forward officials took visitors on tours of its reopened headquarters, where the nonprofit’s clients can once again eat, shower, wash clothes, use computers and check mail, among other functions, in the first-floor support center. 

“The stress that the move put on our staff was nothing compared to the stress it put on our clients, who lost regular showers and regular laundry services,” said Amanda Rochon, the development manager of special events for Housing Forward, who served as one of the tour guides. 

“We worked with a lot of partner organizations to fill some of those gaps, but people who were used to coming here had to go to other places to get vouchers for laundry and things like that,” she said. “We’re definitely excited and happy to be back.” 

On Sept. 9, 2017, a fire broke out in the attic of the nonprofit’s Maywood headquarters, destroying a lot of the organization’s inventory of donated items, including 32,000 recyclable compostable paper plates. Three months later, on New Year’s Eve, a pipe burst, which forced the nonprofit the temporarily vacate the building entirely. 

In addition to relocating office space on the second and third floors, and applying fresh coats of paint on the walls throughout the building, the nonprofit installed a new entrance for people utilizing the support center.  

“We now have a separate entrance for clients than we do for other people, such as staff, who aren’t using the support center,” said Rochon. “We built out a space for a reception area. That way our support staff can focus on the people who need their services.” 

Janet Gow, Housing Forward’s director of development and communications, said the move back into the Maywood facility started around two weeks ago and was a community effort. 

The drapes that hung in one room were dry-cleaned at no charge, Turano Baking Company in Berwyn donated food for the reopening, and a student from Oak Park and River Forest High School spent hours carrying boxes up and down stairwells, among many other unheralded acts of charity. 

“It’s really amazing that the community knows what we’ve been through and given us discounts and done things at no charge,” Gow said.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com