For many years, whoever answered the door at Onward House became a helping hand. Whether it was a receptionist or our Executive Director, we would take the time to translate a letter or make a phone call to another agency. As Belmont Cragin has seen an increase in immigrants settling in the community, we are fortunate to have increased our capacity to serve more people by becoming an official Illinois Immigrant & Refugee Welcoming Center.
The Welcoming Center has quickly grown to become the neighborhood’s one-stop-shop for people seeking guidance in acclimating to life in Chicago. Now we are able to provide a new depth of service, and since June 2021, have resolved 55 crisis cases.
For example, we recently welcomed four families from Colombia, who live together in one basement apartment to save money while the parents look for work. They came to Onward House looking for help. In one meeting, we were able to provide:
- Connections to essential services like our on-site food pantry, where parents could pick out food, clothing, and toiletries.
- Connections to a trusted employment agency to help them find work.
- Assistance applying for children’s medical benefits.
- Information on rights as Immigrants & Refugees.
- Toys for the children.
The Welcoming Center serves an average of 180 people each month who are looking for similar help. We received a thank you letter from a mom who arrived from Venezuela with her daughter:
“We recently arrived at the City of Chicago and we would like to appreciate Onward Neighborhood House and its staff members for all the support provided with humanistic effort. They have listened to all our needs and provided guidance.
Currently, we receive from them: food, computer classes, medical attention, workshops, and more. I hope they continue with such generous labor.
Kind Regards, Daisy”
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