At Onward House, individuals and families access programs that serve their immediate needs and long-term goals through our unique blend of services. Our core programming includes Early Childhood Education, School Age, Adult Education, and our Food Pantry. Onward House serves over 950 children and families (approximately 5,500 individuals) annually.

2020 – 2021 Program Highlights:

Youth Services

  • In September, we continued to provide full-day programming for 47 of 58 of our School Age program students who are engaged in CPS remote learning. As the Chicago Public School system began to open up, almost all families chose to stay full-day at Onward House.
  • We have partnered with Lurie’s Children’s Hospital to provide physicals and immunizations to families on-site at Belmont Cragin in order to save parents an extra trip to the doctor. 
  • We worked with a Remote Learning Specialist to assess and improve our remote learning platform for the Early Childhood Education and School Age program. As a result, we set up a Google Education Workspace to gather all learning tools in one easily accessible space. These changes will allow Onward House to continue remote learning and meet the needs of children who may have extended absences.
  • We provided 327 children with at least one gift for the holidays through donations. 

Hunger and Health

  • The church that hosted the ONH food pantry closed in December 2020. The food pantry has temporarily been moved into the adult education classrooms on our main site to continue operations and meet the need. Overall, we increased our food distribution, jumping from 58,559lbs to over 160,851 lbs of food in 2020. In addition to food, the food pantry distributed diapers, baby food, masks, and sanitizer. Onward House plans to move to a new location by January 2022.
  • Many ONH staff and program participants have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to disease.  In response, Onward House became much more involved in the area of health and safety through the distribution of PPE and over 300 phone calls to set up vaccination appointments for vulnerable community members.
  • In April, CommunityHealth, the largest free clinic in the county, opened a telehealth site at ONH to increase healthcare access and reduce the transportation barrier for uninsured residents in the area.In addition, wee will partner with Community health to host a health fair in August 2021 at Onward House. 

Adult Education

  • Through partial funding with the Illinois Department of Human Services, Onward House became an Illinois Welcoming Center (IWC) to provide a comprehensive services center for integrating immigrants and refugees in Illinois. The Welcoming Center’s innovative model eliminates systemic barriers immigrants may have in approaching state services. The funding allowed Onward House to hire a Support Services Coordinator dedicated to supporting our community by providing case management, crisis case management, workshops, and other links to services, including Onward House’s Youth and adult services.  Through this program we offered: 25 workshops, assisted 253 individuals with case management services, including 48 individuals needing crisis intervention, and provided 781 referrals to partner organizations providing services not directly offered by Onward House for employment, domestic violence, and monetary relief funds. 
  •  In total, we had 634 students enrolled in our adult education classes, including ESL, GED, GED Spanish, Basic Computer, Advanced Computer, and Citizenship. 13 students became naturalized citizens in 2020/2021.
  • The digital divide among specific communities is still a huge problem limiting access to information, learning, resources, and a better economic future. In addition, there is an issue with access to computers, internet service, and technology training. Two populations Onward House was deeply involved with have been parents and small local businesses.  We have provided over 50 free Chromebooks or laptops and provided numerous classes, workshops, and one-on-one support to those who need it
  • As of late 2021, we are searching for a new teacher for our computer courses. We are evaluating the future and impact of these courses. We have created a Technology Survey to assess the needs of the community regarding computer courses. We had 70 participants complete the survey and the results were as follows: 77% of those surveyed have internet access, however, 47% use it only for entertainment, 11% for work, and 16% do not use it at all. Our survey participants listed the following as areas of need in their computer literacy: 29% want to learn how to help their child with e-learning, 27% want to understand how to use technology for budgeting and personal finances, and 24% would like to learn a new skill. Given the shift to online learning and remote employment, we see a need for increased internet access and computer literacy to ensure our clients can compete in this changing world.