La Casa Norte Will Open its New Doors in Humboldt Park January 2019

By Toma Talpa and Rabia Baig

La Casa Norte entrance
La Casa Norte’s current location on the West Side of Chicago. (Photo by Toma Talpa)

After 16 years of service, La Casa Norte, a non-profit organization, will open a new housing project in Humboldt Park, on the West Side of Chicago, called The Foundation Project.

“The Foundation Project is a significant project for us where we have been working on it for 7 years by the time it’s built,” said Sol Flores, the executive director of La Casa Norte.

The new project, a community and housing center that will provide 25 new apartments for youth and families, will be open in January of 2019 and will consist of 15,000 square feet. La Casa Norte partnered with Howard Brown Health to provide its clients a federally qualified health care center for those insured and uninsured. The clinic for physical and mental health care services will have a medical doctor, as well as a nurse practitioner on site for all emergencies.

It will also feature a nutrition center with food pantry, a workforce development and a youth learning center, and much more. The Foundation Project would aid a large number of people in need by providing safe housing, while guiding the choices they make and better their lives.

According to Jessica Rodriguez, the associate director of development, the approximate cost of this facility will be $ 20 million, with funding of private and public contributions. In fact, approximately $6 million were raised from 50 families who live in the Chicagoland area.

La Casa Norte's project
Prototype of La Casa Norte’s exterior and interior which will open in January of 2019 in Humboldt Park . (Courtesy of La Casa Norte)

Likewise, Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development stated that the city also contributed to The Foundation Project with $3.5 million in Tax Increment Financing assistance, including a loan of $4 million.

Back in 2014 La Casa Norte stated that former Governor Pat Quinn supported the project with a $2 million commitment emphasizing the idea of affordable housing and economic development in Chicago.

Quinn stated that this project will “make sure that everyone has a safe place to turn when they are in need”.

The funding for the youth development and housing programs comes mainly from government, whether it’s from federal, state or city, as well as through different private foundations and individuals who strive to make a change in the community.

Created in 2002, co-founders Keith Decker and Peter McQueen, started this life-changing organization which aims to transform the lives of the homeless, as well as vulnerable families and immigrants with stable housing.

Decker and McQueen started this organization to improve the communities in the Chicagoland area. They both began working in homeless shelters (in the city and suburbs) and saw the need of opening an organization that will provide stable housing. They focused on youth after noticing that males from ages 16 to 21 received a breach in services, later following their focus on families as well.
Grand opening of La Casa NorteKeith Decker (center left) and Peter McQueen (center right) with Sol Flores (middle right) during the inauguration in 2002 (Courtesy of La Casa Norte).

According to Chicago Urban Labs, 10,000 families were homeless in the Chicagoland area. The families also include children roaming the streets without any aid or a roof over their heads.

In addition, a study by the University of Chicago states that one in thirty adolescents between the ages 13 to 17, and one in ten young adults between the ages 18 to 25 experience homelessness in a year. With the help from La Casa Norte, 4,525 youth and families were aided to prevent homelessness.

In 2002, Sol Flores took the role as La Casa Norte’ executive director, and has the same goals of Decker and McQueen, to better the communities in the Chicagoland area by providing safe housing. The services provided include educational support, training, life-skills and employment readiness to prepare people for a brighter future.

Sol Flores on Chicago Tribune
Sol Flores, the executive director of La Casa Norte, on the cover of the Chicago Tribune Life & Style (Courtesy of Chicago Tribune).

Flores said that Chicago is challenged by youth and family homelessness which is why founders, Decker and McQueen brought their attention to “The Windy City,” specifically to Humboldt Park.

According to Flores, “one of the things that really moved them in the 90’s in the volunteering was the shear of resilience, but also this hopelessness of working with young people; it’s cliche but people are the future and they thought youthfulness and homelessness should not go together”.

As a result, La Casa Norte focuses on two target populations which is youth between ages 16 to 25, and vulnerable families such homeless, victims of domestic violence or single parents.

Its mission is to create a better environment for the communities, especially for youngsters who are roaming around the streets at night, by providing them services to acquire life-skills and empowering them to change their lives.

“La Casa Norte helped me get off the streets and avoid homelessness by providing me with housing,” said “John,” a La Casa Norte’s client who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his privacy.  

Flores’ contribution to La Casa Norte and her determination and persistence to aid communities in Chicagoland area, led her to a mountain of awards which include the prestigious White House Champion of Change Award, the Chicago Neighborhood Development Award and the Youth Empowering Strategies Social Justice Inspiration Award to name few.

Sol Flores' awards
Flores’ awards throughout the years for her dedication in aiding Chicago communities. (Photo by Toma Talpa).

According to Rodriguez, they “operate two drop-in centers for ages 16 to 24, providing basic essentials such housing advocacy, toiletries, food, and clothes for the families coming in.”

Future plans of La Casa Norte go beyond this project as they are planning to make a greater impact in the vulnerable and homeless communities in the South Side of Chicago.

“We offer a drop-in and shelter center on the South Side as well. We’ve been thinking about other types of services we can bring to those local communities there which we know, again, don’t have a lot of options for young people and families experiencing homelessness,” said Flores.

If you know someone struggling with homelessness, domestic violence, or anyone who needs housing support contact, La Casa Norte at 773-276-4900.

Ten Public Gardens Everyone Must Visit in the Chicagoland Area

Illinois was home to the Tallgrass Prairie where it consisted of various beautiful plants, including tall grasses and wildflowers. It had its own sense of smell and sound when the wind passed through the land. However, when European settlers moved along the west, they could not bear to live with the biting insects, possible fires, and the lack of trees.

In 1837, John Deere came up with a steel-bladed plow where it had the capability to chop off the plants in seconds. Instead of having the 22 million acres of prairie, Illinois has now has the remaining 2,000 acres.

Despite the loss of one Illinois’ greatest feature, the Chicagoland area has put together unique gardens where everyone can have a taste of Mother Nature.  The map below lists the top ten public gardens near the Chicago area as determined by Choose Chicago, an organization that drives to bring visitors to Chicago for a better economy.

List of the Top Ten Public Gardens near Chicago:

The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool takes people into another world just by the sight of the amazing waters and insects beautifully buzzing around it. This park was home to various lilies and plants, but it slowly began to lose its shape as years went by. However, by 2002 restoration of this site was completed and allowed visitors to feel the crisp air and enjoy with family and friends.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Home to one of the most well known attraction near Chicago, the Chicago Botanic Garden features 29 garden and natural areas, from the Japanese Garden to the Waterfall Garden. General admission is totally free for those who love to enjoy the diversity of plants and exhibits.

Garfield Park Conservatory

This conservatory in Chicago is known as “landscape under glass”. The unique architecture was created by Jens Jensen; it features a Desert Garden, and a Palm House which is home to 70 palm trees. If someone is planning on visiting the city, they must stop by to this beautiful area!

Grant Park Rose Garden

Right next to one of Chicago’s well-known landmark, the Buckingham Fountain, the Grant Park Rose Garden displays a rose bed with some of the most amazing colors. The wonderful breeze from Lake Michigan allows every visitor to enjoy the walkway and absorb pleasant scent from the vibrant flowers.

Lincoln Park Conservancy

A similar architectural design to the Garfield Park Conservatory, the Lincoln Park Conservancy features a Victorian style glass house which consists of exotic plants from around the world. As a tribute to our 16th president, the garden also features a 12 foot bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln that was placed in 1887.

Lurie Garden

This beautiful piece of area is right next Chicago’s very own Millennium Park! After visiting the Cloud Gate and the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden will present various flowers and plants that will make one feel like they are in the countryside. This area is famously known as the “Urbs in Horto” or the City in a Garden.

North Pond Nature Sanctuary

The Lincoln Park Conservancy assists conserving a garden with a lovely pond, known as the North Pond Nature Sanctuary. This pond is home to a number of diverse plants and animals. In fact, there are over 150 plant species and more than 200 bird species. This place is mesmerizing for those who love to enjoy a combination of unique plants and animals.

Osaka Garden

The Garden of Phoenix located in Jackson Park features a garden called the Osaka Garden. The garden has a touch of Japanese culture that displays more than 120 Cherry Blossom Trees when in season. Fun fact: The Osaka Garden was actually a gift from Japan to Chicago as a symbol of friendship with the United States.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

This nature museum is a wonderful place for kids to interact with nature around them, like the Animal House and the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. The distinctive architectural design not only features a variety of plants and animals, but also provides a learning experience for kids who are mesmerized with the science of nature.

The Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum is a breathtaking place where one gets to view the different trees and go on nature walks. Not only will it give a one-on-one connection with the beautiful land, but exciting activities are established for anyone who would like to participate, such as the newest 2018 activity, the Hunt for Trolls.

Google Trends: iPhone, Nike, Hurricane Florence, and Kavanaugh’s Allegation

The iPhone Remains The Public’s Popular Choice 

When it came down to one of the most popular companies in the world, Apple’s iPhone won many hearts. On the other hand, Nike did get the public searching for them, but it was not because of their products.

Nike grabbed the attention of many fans when they featured NFL star Colin Kaepernick in their commercial. Kaepernick was known as the first NFL player to sit out on the National Anthem in 2016. This led Kaepernick facing a backlash from President Trump when he expressed how the player should have been suspended for his action.

In the commercial, Kaepernick responded to all criticism by saying, “It’s only crazy until you do it. Just do it”.

Thus, the analysis of Google displayed how many individuals searched up the commercial which created a big spike on Google Trends in September. Nike’s support of Kaepernick’s expression of the second amendment led some to burn and destroy their Nike sportswear. Kaepernick’s news feed slowly died down after his kneel, but this sparked it back up in September.

Throughout the months of 2018, the iPhone was on the public’s mind as to what Apple has in store for them. Many were curious and finding out ways how this iPhone was different compared to previous models.

However, when it came to searching up the new iPhone on Google Trends it completely dominated over Nike. Throughout 2018, the iPhone stayed as a popular search due to rumors of it presenting three brand new iPhones. Once it got in the middle of September, the iPhone became the dictator by releasing the new iPhones: iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

Therefore, the searching the iPhone remained and was the popular choice among those who started to search it up online, compared to Kaepernick’s collaboration with Nike.

Continue reading “Google Trends: iPhone, Nike, Hurricane Florence, and Kavanaugh’s Allegation”

Quinn: MAP grants critical for low-income students

Pat Quinn photo
Gov. Pat Quinn talks about MAP grants at DePaul University. (Photo by Josclynn Brandon)

By Bob Smith

Gov. Pat Quinn visited DePaul University’s Loop campus on Wednesday to discuss how pension reform is harming the Monetary Award Program (MAP) college scholarships and access to higher education in Illinois.

“This is so important to our state, not only in the past, but certainly now and in the future,” Quinn said.

“We want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college that has the ability to go to college.”

MAP grants are need-based college scholarships that allow merit students who are in need across the state and do not need to be repaid by the student. Quinn said that due to cutbacks and having to pay more money in the pension amount, almost 18,000 students lost their MAP grant scholarships this year.

Continue reading “Quinn: MAP grants critical for low-income students”