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). It is also home to one of the busiest airports in the world, Chicago O’Hare.

Chicago contains 16,000 public housing units for seniors and families across the city. This provides 20,000 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 is a city passionate about its sports teams. The Chicago Bulls, Chicago’s NBA team, were home to none other than Michael Jordan, or “Air Jordan”, himself, one of the greatest basketball players of all time and a living legend. 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 (CPS) system is one of the nation’s poorest. There are almost 400,000 students in the public school system and 86% of them live at or below the poverty line. Over 22,000 students attending school in Chicago are classified as homeless. CPS faces numerous school closures each year, forcing schools to combine student bodies. Due to this and the fact that large numbers of faculty members are laid off from these schools each year, class sizes often grow to the point of being unmanageable for the short-staffed schools. For the students that start high school, about 69% will graduate city-wide, with some neighborhoods averaging as low as a 10% graduation rate and even fewer moving on to be eligible for a selective college or university. Many of these children fall by the wayside and end up joining gangs, even if simply for protection in some of Chicago’s more dangerous neighborhoods.

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 $2,221 a month. A person would need to work over 67 hours per week at a minimum wage job in order to only pay the rent of an apartment at that cost.

Almost 126,000 people a year are without permanent housing and classified as “homeless” in Chicago. This is not always a visible population, as it encompasses not just those on the streets or in shelters but also those staying with friends or family members. On any given night, there are about 6,500 people in need of shelter in the city, and there are only around 2,064 emergency beds available to these people city-wide, forcing many to the streets.

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 Lauren Maniaci (City Director)

Chicago MuralChicago is referred to by many names: The Windy City, Chi-Town, and The Second City. A city with so many names is bound to have limitless attractions for tourists all around the world. Most come for things such as: the Willis Tower, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, the Buckingham Fountain, as well as Second City Comedy Club. Combine that with close to 20,000 restaurants, 27 beaches, and many, many more attractions, and you have a fun vacation ahead! Chicago, just like most other cities, advertises the wonderful things you can do, eat and explore. However, if that’s all you’re able to see when you come to Chicago then you are missing out on what lies beneath the surface of our city.

Chicago is so much more than just a beautiful skyline. At CSM Chicago, we’re fortunate enough to be housed in the Albany Park neighborhood. This neighborhood attracts a lot of young families as well as college students as we are housed near 2 large universities. Albany Park is the most diverse zip code in Chicago (and the third most diverse in the country!) with over 40 different languages spoken in its public schools. Just over 50% of its residents were born in either Mexico, Guatemala, India, Korea, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Romania, Pakistan, the Middle East or the Philippines. Being able to walk down the street and experience a diverse selection of food, languages and culture is definitely a wonderful as well as educational experience.

Looking deeper under the surface though, we can see that Chicago is a struggling city. Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, it was reported that 125,848 Chicagoans were reported homeless at one point or another. Along with this, 43,958 of those affected were children. Unfortunately, these are not just numbers and statistics. These are real people, real children, with real stories.

Another area of concern for Chicago is our public school system. Currently, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is in debt by 6.3 billion dollars. Because of this, cuts have had to be made in order for children to keep going to school. Over the last year Chicago has closed 50 public schools due to debt. What does this mean for our youth? Unfortunately it means that students are having to travel to farther away schools, many times crossing rival gang lines. This brings in more violence to their commute as well as to their classrooms. Through this darkness though, there is hope. The 2013-2014 school year has held a record high percentage for graduation. There is now a 69% graduation rate city wide! Many of our struggling neighborhoods still have a 10% graduation rate, however we have hope that this number will continue to rise.

As you can see, Chicago is a beautiful, struggling city. Through its imperfections, there are numerous glimpses of hope. CSM Chicago is blessed to serve alongside 60 different partners who are working for justice and peace in the city. Join us as we partner in prayer, as well as service, as we seek to further His Kingdom in the city.

CSM Ministry Site Sampler

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 streetlights 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, serve at a men’s homeless shelter, and organize a free clothing store at this location year round, as well as lead a VBS program for the children here throughout the summer.

A Just Harvest is a soup kitchen run by the Good News Community Kitchen in the neighborhood of Rogers Park. This neighborhood shows diversity in many ways - economically, religiously, and culturally. Around 130-180 people are served each night at A Just Harvest, 365 nights a year. A Just Harvest seeks to serve its patrons in a way that makes them feel most respected – by serving them restaurant style while sitting at tables rather than having them line up to get their food “cafeteria style”. Our groups help prepare, serve, and clean up after dinners here.

The Lathrop Elderly Apartments are part of a housing facility within the Chicago Housing Authority. Residents must be considered low-income in order to live here. Our groups serve here by providing fun activities like Bingo, crafts, and manicures for the residents to enjoy. Through activities such as these, our groups provide a fun social aspect to the resident’s lives that they might not get otherwise.

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