Homeless shelter empowers, keeps families together


Audrey Park

MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Donations are a powerful tool, helping organizations such as Margaret’s Village in combating homelessness. With three simple clicks on their website, you can make a difference. “You can’t underestimate the power of making a $5 donation and the power that can do for us as an agency,” Cassandra Cooke, the Director of Development, said.

Audrey Park, Reporter

Cycles. Homelessness. Fear. A harsh, yet common reality that many face in the South Side of Chicago. However, not too far away lays a space determined to rise above the despair to further provide aid to the less fortunate. A space where women, children and families are supported, loved and housed. A place lacking judgment and discernment. Where homelessness does not define anyone. Margaret’s Village is a place where change is possible. 

Margaret’s Village, a nonprofit organization strives to create a resilient community, aiding women, children and families in need of transitional housing and support which is especially important now due to the many financial inconveniences COVID-19 has brought. 

“The immediate goal of Margaret’s Village is to provide shelter for those who are vulnerable. But the overall goal is to empower families to access the resources that they need for them to find sustainable permanent housing,” Director of Development Cassandra Cooke said.

The organization is composed of three shelters: the Maria, the Vincennes, and the Believe shelters, all located in the Englewood community. Ms. Cooke expressed her concern about the amount of homelessness in this area.

“Because we are located in the South and there is such a need for aid in the South Side, we focus there, but we are open to everyone who needs our services,” she said. “We don’t have a grid that you need to follow in line with to be applicable with our services. You just need our help.”

We don’t have a grid that you need to follow in line with to be applicable with our services. You just need our help.

— Cassandra Cooke

The organization was founded by Sister Margaret and started as the Institute For Women Today. Originally, the mission was to help women who were incarcerated as many of these women had children, but no shelter. They needed a place to go, and that was how Maria shelter was started.

Additionally, Margaret’s Village is one of the few organizations that encourages fathers to shelter with their families. Oftentimes, shelters only allow for mothers to be there, whereas Margaret’s Village wishes for the family to stay intact. 

It is difficult for many individuals and families to obtain shelter or housing due to the many factors that do not fall in their favor.

“A two-bedroom apartment, at a minimum, would require an individual to make $23 an hour,” she said. “We just fought tooth and nail to get $15 an hour as the minimum wage and that still wouldn’t provide adequate housing in Chicago for a very small family.

Margaret’s Village wants to connect people in need with resources that would effectively benefit the person, allowing for earning power and independence. The organization utilizes a vast number of resources and has many partnerships. 

COVID-19 has impacted Margaret’s Village significantly, creating many challenges for the organization. They no longer can receive aid from volunteers, accept used tangible donations, and it is especially hard to financially support the individuals within the shelters. However, with sacrifice comes triumph. 

Margaret’s Village had no cases of COVID-19 among their residents, something Ms. Cooke describes as a victory. 

Due to the lack of resources, especially in Englewood, Ms. Cooke encourages others to help the organization enact change.

“You can’t underestimate the power of making a $5 donation and the power that can do for us as an agency,” she said.

Additionally, Margaret’s Village is expanding its social media presence and would appreciate it if people followed them there.

Hope. Promise. Community. All elements that Margaret’s Village provides for the South Side of Chicago.

Ms. Cook said, “We would love it if we were put out of business, that everybody had a home.”