Non-profit organization helping poor young mothers opens new facility in Oak Park

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A non-profit organization based in Austin that helps struggling young mothers recover, Friday unveiled its new facility in Oak Park.

New moms, which served The Chicago area, since 1983, provides vocational training and family support services to many homeless families aged 24 and under.

The new facility in Oak Park will extend these services to mothers in the western suburbs, where the poverty rate has been steadily increasing since the turn of the century. The four-story building and an area of ​​21,700 square feet includes 18 one- and two-bedroom apartments available to eligible mothers for section 8 housing checks.

"It's hard to do anything else in your life if you do not have a safe and stable place to live. Our commitment to house families is based on that, "said New Moms President Laura Zumdahl at the opening ceremony.

Attorney Kim Foxx, of Cook County State, was also witnessing homelessness on Friday.

(From left to right) Laura Zumdahl, President and CEO of New Moms, Cook County State Lawyer, Kim Foxx, Senator of State, Don Harmon, and Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb join dozens of people for a dedication ceremony for the inauguration of the New Moms Association. & # 39; new facility at 206 Chicago Ave. at Oak Park, Friday morning, March 15, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

"My mother struggled for many years to support my brother and me. We were homeless during a time when I was in high school, "said the supreme prosecutor before the inauguration ceremony. "When we talk about interrupting generational poverty, I am the example."

The $ 7.25 million facility was paid for by the James P. Family Foundation and Brenda S. Grusecki and other private donors.

A room in an apartment at New Moms, 206 Chicago Ave. at Oak Park, Friday morning, March 15, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Statistics show that suburban poverty has increased across the country in the past two decades. According to the Brookings Institution, the number of people living in the suburbs below the poverty line in the country's largest metropolitan areas grew up nearly 60% between 2000 and 2015.

The suburbs of Chicago have closely followed the national trend: between 2000 and 2016, the population of suburban residents living below the poverty line increased by 270,000, an increase of 54%, according to one study by the Metropolitan Planning Council published in September.

"The suburbs generally do not have access to the services of people living in poverty who need to get back on their feet," Zumdahl said. "We decided that we could not just be frustrated by the lack of affordable housing in the community and decided that part of our job was to provide housing ourselves."

The reception area at New Moms, 206 Chicago Ave. at Oak Park, Friday morning, March 15, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

At the New Moms Center in Austin, there are 40 transitional housing units in which women can stay up to two years. The Oak Park facilities will not be limited in the time that families can stay.

According to Zumdahl, the organization's annual budget has grown from $ 2 million in 2014 to $ 5.5 million in 2018. These new moms have used these funds to double the number of full-time employees and to serve 800 mothers and children last year, up from 500 four years ago. .

Carlos Ballesteros is a member of the army corps Report for America, a nonprofit journalism program that aims to strengthen coverage by Sun-Times on the south and west sides of Chicago.