Urban Missions and Service Experiences for Youth, Adult, and Family Groups

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Facts and Figures

Chicago houses nearly 3,000,000 residents over its 228.5 square miles (that’s approximately 25 miles long by 15 miles wide). The greater Chicagoland area contains nearly 10,000,000 residents. Chicago’s population is 27% Hispanic, 33% African-American, 32% Caucasian, 5% Asian, and 3% other races.

The Chicagoland area is home to some of America’s largest corporations, including Boeing, Motorola, United Airlines, Aon, Allstate, Kraft Foods, Walgreens, and McDonald’s (including the Golden Arches famous Hamburger University).

Chicago contains 21,000 public housing units for seniors and families across the city. This provides 50,000 families and individuals places to live. Chicago public housing is currently undergoing “the plan for transformation,” the largest and most ambitious redevelopment effort of public housing in the history of the United States.

Chicago’s Wrigley Field is home for baseball’s most beloved losers – the Cubs (or “Da Cubbies”, as locals call them). The team draws capacity crowds year after year, despite its decades–long record of futility.

Did You Know That…

Chicago has 28 sister cities including Warsaw (Poland), Osaka (Japan), Casablanca (Morocco), Bogotá (Colombia), and Delhi (India).

Chicago loves its food. It is known for deep dish pizza, Italian Beef, and the Chicago style hot dog. Chicago’s love for food reaches its pinnacle every June with, “The Taste of Chicago”. Over 3.5 million people will attend this 10 day event. This is the largest free food festival in the world.

Chicago is known as “The Neighborhood City”. The metropolis is divided into 77 distinct neighborhoods, each with its own name and identity.

The Cubs haven’t won a World Series title since 1908, the longest such run of frustration in major sports history.

People, Problems, Issues

The Chicago public school system is one of the nation’s poorest. There are over 400,000 students in the public school system and 84% of them live at or below the poverty line. 19,000 students attending school in Chicago are classified as homeless. For the students that start high school about 50% will graduate.

The number one cause of homelessness in Chicago is lack of affordable housing. Chicago is tearing down over 22,000 public housing units and replacing them with only 7,500 units. The average rent for a 2–bedroom apartment is $1,736 a month. A person would need to work over 52 hours per week at a minimum wage job in order to only pay the rent of an apartment at that cost.

Women with children comprise 34% of Chicago’s homeless population. Most often, they–re fleeing domestic violence they suffered in their former residences.

Insight on the City

by Tim Reed (Former City Director)

Chicago MuralThe Windy City, Chi-town, the Second City – all are nicknames for Chicago. And why wouldn’t a city with so much to offer have so many names? Tourists from around the world come to see Chicago’s attractions: the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) – the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere; Adler Planetarium—the oldest planetarium in the country; Shedd Aquarium—the second largest aquarium in the country; and Buckingham Fountain—the largest illuminated fountain in the country to name a few. Chicago, like most cities, tries to put these things front and center. However, if that’s all you see when you come to Chicago, you are missing out on what lies below the surface of our city.

Chicago is more than big buildings and fun attractions. One of the most beautiful things Chicago has to offer is its rich diversity. The CSM housing site is located in the Albany Park neighborhood, the most diverse area in the city and the third most ethnically diverse zip code in the United States. At any given time there are 22 different languages being spoke fluently in Albany Park. 50% of the residents who live in the neighborhood were born in another country. Take a walk down the street, and you’ll see people from all over the world. In the shopping plaza a couple of blocks from our housing site, you will find stores from several different countries. Albany Park has an energy that is produced from all the cultures coming together in a small area and coexisting peacefully with each other.

At the same time there are many problems that Chicago faces. Just below the surface of beauty and diversity, a very different face of Chicago emerges. Chicago is still a racially divided city. Nationally 47% of the homeless are African–American, yet in Chicago 75% of the homeless population is African–American. 36% of Chicagoans are African–American, yet 85% of the 9,000 Cook County Jail detainees are African–American – a significant disparity. So, while there is much diversity in Chicago there are many underlying racial tensions.

In 2000 Chicago initiated the Plan for Transformation 2010. They made a goal of getting rid of all the housing projects in Chicago by 2010. While there were many problems in the housing projects, demolishing them also destroyed a significant sense of community amongst residents. Even worse, the city of Chicago did not build new housing or provide nearly enough alternatives where families could move. Since so many of the housing projects housed families, the number of homeless families have skyrocketed in Chicago. In 2000 there were 4 homeless shelters that allowed families to sleep together. In 2010 there are now 14 shelters that provide for in–tact families. There are over 60,000 households on the waiting list to get Section 8 housing vouchers in Chicago.

As you can see there are great things about Chicago, yet there are also many problems lying just below the surface. The obstacles that many Chicagoans face are economic, racial, physical, emotional and spiritual. Yet despite all these issues, there are social service agencies, churches, and individuals that spread hope that a better day is yet to come. It’s time for God’s people to come alongside such organizations to really start making a change in Chicago. Come be a part of what God is doing here!

CSM Ministry Site Sampler

A Just Harvest operates a soup kitchen in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the far-north side of Chicago. They serve an evening meal seven days a week, 365 days a year. Last year, they served more than 59,000 meals. Our groups help with meal service.

Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO) is a ministry of Jesus People USA and is located in Blood Alley of the Uptown neighborhood. The alley used to be very dark and was a haven for gang violence, prostitution, and drug dealing. CCO came into the alley and brought light (both figuratively and literally). They installed street lights to make the alley safer and also bring the light of Christ to the people of the neighborhood. Our groups help serve meals to clients and also lead a VBS program throughout the summer.

Casa Central is the largest Hispanic social service agency in Illinois. They offer a myriad of programs for children and families. Our groups usually help with their Head Start programs and the programs for school age children.

St. Thomas Soup Kitchen is a feeding program that serves the Uptown neighborhood. Homeless and low income people receive meals and other services. Our groups help serve and clean up evening meals.

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