The mission of Maristella is to
promote self-sufficiency of homeless women and mothers with children in
Lake County, Illinois, by providing assistance with finding safe, clean,
affordable housing and providing rent subsidies and educational services.
“From homeless to hopeful, Maristella creates a rippling effect in
Copyright © 2014 Eunice Bridges
The History of Maristella
We started in 1995 when three women wanted to do something about
homelessness. We did not know where to go or what the need was. After
three years of studying the homeless situation in Lake County, we
decided to work with homeless women and children. Having very little
funding, we asked the Franciscan Friars at Marytown for office space.
They graciously offered us several cubby spaces. These spaces grew until
in 2001 we moved into two offices right near the East
entrance of Marytown.
We've now moved to our current location at 745 N Milwaukee Ave in
On Oct 10, 1998, we took in our first client. Today we have assisted
over 1700 families. We assist with case management, rental subsidy,
food, clothing, household goods and furniture. We have developed
programs to help our clients toward self-sufficiency:
Urgent Needs Program: This program assists clients with rent, food and
clothing. It also allows us to place families in hotels on an emergency
M.O.M., Moms of Maristella,
is a program for all women and
children. We meet once each month at a Church. We have professional
speakers on topics such as parenting skills, budgeting skills, health
care, child safety, etc.
Childcare is provided. Clients who attend these meetings receive special
benefits during the Holidays. We have a raffle at each meeting. At the
July meeting, children receive school supplies. At Thanksgiving time
each family receive a food basket and a turkey. At Christmas time,
clients fill a wish list for their families. These items are purchased
by the local high schools. Christmas parties are held. The students and
staff participate with the clients and families. It is always a joy to
see the children enjoying games and partying together.
The Shower Ministry: This ministry provides families who are moving into
an apartment for the first time with household goods. This ministry is
taken care of by the North Shore Unitarian Church. They collect these
household goods and deliver them to the home. Things that we take for
granted are sometimes not available to a person who has been homeless.
Other programs are dependent on funds from grants as we receive them.
We help families in Domestic Violence situations when we have funding to
place them in hotels or give them a new start with the Security Deposit.
Other grants such as the EFSG program give us funding for food and hotel
The ESL program: English as a Second Language. Together with the Mundelein
Adult Education program we have a class for Spanish speaking people who
can come to class every day for one hour. This is a new program and is
doing very well. We have about 10 people who attend class on a daily
basis. Learning English will help them get a better job.
Maristella has a Board of eight members and an
Advisory Board of five members. We have a paid case worker and a part
time Administrative Assistant through Department and Human Services.
Maristella uses many
volunteers in the office and for sorting donations.
Maristella is part of the Lake County Coalition for the
Homeless. We are also part of the Continuum of Care for the Homeless in
Lake County. Maristella works together with other agencies
in Lake County to provide shelter, food and basic necessities for the
homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless.
In March 2002, Maristella opened its first Home. This is a
transitional facility. Families with two children under the age of 9 may
reside in the home for six months to one year. We have four moms and two
children living in the home. The home is a group home following the
Oxford House Guidelines. The women are all working and paying $100 a
week rent. After six months to one year the women will move into their
Maristella looks to open a second home in the near future.
We also look to partner with Catholic Charities, a large agency which we
already have worked with. This agency will be able to provide more
social services for our clients. Maristella also hopes to
find their own building to provide permanent housing for families.