A computer-generated image of the New Moms, Inc. building

On Chicago’s West Side, work has begun on a project that will help stabilize young families. New Moms, Inc., a Chicago not-for-profit that provides counsel and other services to teenage mothers and their children, broke ground last week on an $11.7 million facility that, when completed in mid-2012, will contain 40 apartments with room for 40 adults and 60 children. In addition to the studio and one-bedroom apartments, the building will house a cafeteria, a daycare center, a safe play space in a central courtyard, and offices for the organization.

In 2008, a fire destroyed the New Moms apartment building in Humboldt Park; since then, the organization has been renting homes for 23 families. On April 25th, the agency broke ground on a new facility at 5327 West Chicago Avenue, the site of the former Austin District Police Station. At the groundbreaking, Mayor Richard M. Daley said that the facility will give “dignity to the mother and dignity to the child.”

Funding for the project includes $6.2 million in federal money from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) that was distributed by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA); $4.1 million in loans and tax credits from the city; and Section 8 vouchers from the Chicago Housing Authority. NSP funds are intended to “help those neighborhoods that had been affected most by the economic downturn,” says Mary Kenney, IHDA’s executive director. While much of the agency’s funding goes toward buying and rehabbing foreclosed single-family homes, this project, Kenney explains, “takes a vacant building in an impacted neighborhood offline and puts the [site] to good use.” She notes that squatters had to be removed from the old police station before it could be demolished. “You’re really addressing a problem for the neighborhood,” she says.

Audalee McLoughlin is the president and CEO of New Moms. “We don’t just provide housing,” she explains. “We have a holistic approach to empowering these young parents.” She notes that 24 percent of teenage mothers in Illinois will have another baby while they are still a teen. But in New Moms’ nearly 30 years of work, only 3 percent of its clients have had second babies while still a teenager. “We help them visualize their future with career goals and life plans,” McLoughlin says, “and having a safe, secure place to live is the first piece of that.”

Mothers 18 and older will rent the apartments for 30 percent of their monthly income; they will also receive access to the coaching and other programs that are offered in the building to mothers as young as 13. (Only people 18 and older can legally sign a lease agreement; that means New Moms can’t rent to mothers who are 17 and younger, although it does offer them a variety of services.) Without help from New Moms, McLoughlin notes, these young mothers and their children might otherwise be homeless. “They come to us with a plastic bag in one hand and a baby in the other,” she says. “Getting them housed is a step toward getting them stable lives as families.”

ALSO: On Monday, David Derk, whose condo developer had failed for nearly a year to honor a buyback contract, finally had his problem resolved. Judge Stuart Palmer of the Cook County Circuit Court’s Chancery division ordered that the developer, Kopley Group, honor the agreement and buy back Derk’s Rogers Park condo by June 13th.


Image courtesy of New Moms, Inc.