By: Jenny Merritt
North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School (NLCP) is an award-winning charter school on Chicago’s West Side, striving to prepare young people from under-resourced communities for graduation from high school with the academic skills and personal resilience necessary for successful completion of college. NLCP, which has a rich history of supporting students and their families, recognizes that many of their students experience housing instability. Chicago Public Schools identified more than 18,000 students as homeless in 2016–17, and NLCP estimates that 8 to 10% of their student body, around 100 students, struggle with this challenge.
In an effort to better support these students, NLCP reached out to the Old St Patrick’s Church because of its relationship to North Lawndale neighborhood through the North Lawndale Kinship initiative. The Kinship Initiative is a collaboration between the people of Old St. Patrick’s Church and those who live in and work on behalf of the North Lawndale community. Old St Patrick’s eagerly began fundraising for this effort through its Journey Forward Capital Campaign, and created Empower to Succeed, a nonprofit organization, to oversee the development of housing supports for North Lawndale’s students facing housing insecurity. Through the generousity of the people of Old St. Pat's, $1.9-million was raised and allocated for the purchase, renovation and first two years of program funding for Phoenix Hall.
The Night Ministry, a nonprofit organization with a history of pioneering effective shelter and outreach programs for Chicago youth, was selected to develop and oversee programming for the student housing initiative. The result, guided by insight from NLCP’s staff, students, families, and the greater North Lawndale community, was Phoenix Hall.
Phoenix Hall is a year-round residence serving NLCP students by providing safe, stable dorm-like housing and support for the achievement of their educational goals. Residents of the eight-bedroom home, which is located within close proximity to both NLCP campuses, receive a comprehensive range of opportunities, including individualized case management, life skills development, and a focus on educational support and job and college readiness training. Students and families are also connected to community-based resources such as health care, counseling, parenting support and recreation. In addition, families of students are connected to a supportive network of community services.
Phoenix Hall is staffed around the clock with experienced adult professionals trained in positive youth development. Staff also facilitate relationship building and connections within residents’ families.
Potential residents may qualify and apply for Phoenix Hall if they attend NLCP, often recommended by their teachers or counselors. If placement is appropriate, students have the opportunity to visit the home, meet the staff, learn about the program, and agree to its expectations before making the decision to enter. Phoenix Hall staff also meet with the students to develop a plan to move through the program to achieve their educational goals and secure permanent housing. If the student is younger than 18 years of age, The Night Ministry requires permission from the parent or guardian for the student to live in the house.
Phoenix Hall’s first year-and-a-half was wonderful and exciting. Since opening in August of 2017, the residence has served eleven students and has been welcomed to the community by North Lawndale’s local neighbors, elected officials, and community partners, who continue to support the program’s students and their families. Students have also actively participated in many efforts to make North Lawndale a healthy and vibrant community.
Learn more about Phoenix Hall, ways to support its programs and view a video tour at www.oldstpats.org/phoenix-hall/.
Jenny Merritt is Community Engagement Manager at The Night Ministry and Principal Liaison for Phoenix Hall