The leadership of Christopher House remains committed to pioneering some of the best, most impactful program models in the sector, constantly identifying and responding to the dynamic needs that face low-income youth and their families in Chicago. In 2007, Christopher House focused its efforts on the Logan Square community, opening a state-of-the-art Family Resource Center in the neighborhood in a re-purposed former public library building offering hundreds of children and families high-quality preschool, after-school, food pantry, counseling, adult education, parent workshops, and other services.
In August 2013, we opened a new facility and Christopher House’s very first elementary school in the far West Side community of Belmont Cragin. Currently many of the children Christopher House prepares for success in kindergarten—more than 90% of five-year-olds versus a citywide average of 66%—are matriculating into low-performing elementary schools, which limits their access to opportunities critical for their success. While we’ve served families from Belmont Cragin for years, we are now able to offer elementary education in addition to a family resource center.
Right Now in Belmont Cragin
In Belmont Cragin, the need for this facility has never been greater. With a rapidly expanding population of youth and low-income families in the community, there is a tremendous gap between the need for and the availability of high-quality educational and social services. Currently, in Belmont Cragin:
- 52% of residents are low-income (incomes below 185% of the federal poverty level)
- There is only one slot of licensed childcare for every 5 children
- 38% of residents did not graduate high school, and less than 10% hold a bachelor's.
- 36% of residents over the age of 5 report speaking English "less than very well."
- The vast majority of public schools in the community are underperforming; one-third are on academic probation.
Meeting the Need
At the Belmont Cragin Family Resource Center and Elementary School, we offer innovative and unique programs for children in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, and we will add a grade each year until we reach eighth. The family resource center, currently under construction, will expand upon the existing building and support our ability to offer our full continuum of family support services - adult education, counseling, food pantry, and more. At full capacity, our Belmont Cragin Family Resource Center will serve more than 500 families per year and house our administrative offices. We will be the first center-based provider of Early Head Start in the neighborhood, and our center will offer our full range of educational services, including Infant and Pre-School, After-School, and Parent School.
As we head into the final leg of our ambitious capital campaign—which is allowing Christopher House to make a deep impact on two communities—we were fortunate to receive a $5,000,000 grant from the Illinois Capital Development Board through a highly competitive process. With this added momentum, we are excited to complete the campaign and bring our services to hard-working families who are in critical need of support to overcome barriers and become self-sufficient. We hope you will join with us to expand our continuum of high-quality services and bring them to a community that needs them.