Throughout 2014, its 30th anniversary year, Connections for the Homeless is honoring the diverse groups of people who have contributed to its work in the community since 1984.
On May 17, at a volunteer reunion at the Lake Street Church, Hilda Carper, Connections’ first director, described some of her overnight volunteer experiences at the shelter. When she was still a volunteer, the shelter was run by Bob Lynn, a student at Seabury Western Seminary, and Rev. Bob Thompson of what was then the First Baptist Church (now the Lake Street Church).
In 1986, medical student Cathy Deamant volunteered overnight at Hilda’s Place and worked with the City of Evanston and Connections’ staff to start a health clinic for the homeless. Connections now has a full-time nurse and a team of volunteer doctors, as well as a collaborative relationship with Erie Family Health.
Katy Pendleton participated in the 1984 protests that led to the establishment of the shelter. She has continued her volunteer work, serving as Board member and Board President in the 1990s. She noted that Connections has changed and adapted as knowledge about helping homeless people achieve stability has grown, but it still operates on the same principles of respect for the individual, compassion and inclusion of the full community.
On June 7, Connections held a Board reunion at the home of former board member Joe Romano and his wife, Natalie. Paul Selden, Connections’ current executive director, described Connections’ current re-housing programs, supportive housing programs and supportive services.
He also talked about Connections’ target populations: the chronically homeless who have physical and mental health issues, and homeless families with children, since children who experience homelessness are much more likely to become homeless as adults.
Suzanne Calder, the current board president, said, “Being with so many of the past and current leaders of Connections was inspiring and encouraging. … While I’ve been discouraged that the issues of poverty seem to worsen every decade, standing in a room full of caring, committed and engaged community members elevated my sense of what’s possible. Connections is not alone in its work to bring everyone inside.”