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Onward Neighborhood House opens doors to improve lives and uplift communities through educational, economic and support services.
Onward Neighborhood House is a nonprofit community hub where residents of Belmont Cragin, a sprawling community on Chicago’s Northwest Side, can access the programs and services needed to build a better life for themselves and their families.
Founded in 1893, Onward Neighborhood House originally served as a church, and then as a settlement house: a school, refuge, and community center where thousands of impoverished working immigrants could access vital social services as they strove to integrate into all facets of life in Chicago, their new home. In the early 20th Century, many needed food, clothing, and shelter, and Onward House responded. Today, adult education and affordable child care rank among the community’s greatest needs; Onward House is one of the only comprehensive adult education providers in Belmont Cragin, and one of the major providers of high-quality early childhood education.
Onward Neighborhood House assists approximately 950 socioeconomically disadvantaged children and families (5,500 individuals) annually in Belmont Cragin and surrounding neighborhoods (Austin, Dunning, Hanson Park, Portage Park, Logan Square, Hermosa, and Montclare) through programs, services, community workshops, and events. The Belmont Cragin community is 65% Hispanic/Latino and primarily Spanish speaking, with 42% of that population born outside of the U.S. and 68% not yet citizens. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Belmont Cragin has the third-largest population of “people who speak English less than very well” within the city of Chicago.
Onward House fulfills a unique role in our community: a trusted support system that provides local residents with the resources and assistance they need. We actively engage with the community to identify unmet needs, build long-term relationships, and aim to develop holistic, co-located programs to make it possible for multiple generations of families and individuals to thrive. There are very few resources in the neighborhood that offer similar services and programming, and none of those programs are located all in one space, nor do these organizations have relationships with local residents to help them feel at ease enough to discuss sensitive issues, such as citizenship and literacy.
Belmont Cragin is at the intersection of high COVID-19 positivity rates and high unemployment claims. Our work with the community is holistic and responsive to their needs; this time of crisis is an opportunity for us to utilize the trust that Belmont Cragin has placed in us, and to offer support to those who are unable to find help from other sources, especially those who are economically unstable, and immigrants. In this crucial moment, Onward House is in a position to fill the gaps in essential needs experienced by these individuals.