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Putting a Face on Homelessness

Members of the Inspiration Cafe and Family Promise shine a light on Chicago's homeless problem.

Homelessness was given a face Wednesday night at St. Francis Xavier Church as congregants gathered to listen to the stories of people who have been involved with Chicago’s Inspiration Café.

The event centered on five men and women featured in “A Recipe for Hope,” by Karen Skalitzky. The author was in attendence to talk about how she began volunteering at Inspiration Café and where she found the inspiration for the book.

“I started serving breakfast Friday mornings,” Skalitzky said. “I realized that in a very short period of time, someone would always give me a hug or squeeze my hand or walk me to my car and it meant a lot to me.”

The book highlights the many faces around Inspiration Café, including the homeless, the no longer homeless and the volunteers that cook and serve the food. To tell their personal stories, five no longer homeless, now volunteers at the Café accompanied Skalitzky.

“We’re all here to serve people,” Erick Hampton, the last chapter of the book, said. “I want to give back what was so freely and willingly given to me when I was in need.  It’s more than just giving money. Make sure this book goes in your library, that’s how you can support this cause.”

Kimi Kahl has spoken at 12 events with Skalitzky.

“I love telling my story and getting it out there. When I make it big, I want people to remember me and my story.”

Family Progress Chicago North Shore helped organize the evening’s talk. The organization hosts homeless families in religious school buildings and allows whole families to stay together. Congregations like St. Francis take turns preparing dinner for the families during their stay.

“All people, homeless or not, need to be treated with respect and dignity,” Family Promise Board President Laurel Tyler said.

Anne Brennan is a member of St. Francis and participated in the Family Promise program last year.  “The situation with the homeless is so painful especially for families with children that have to be taken out of school,” the Evanston resident said. “You don’t see a lot of the problem in Wilmette so the question is how do I get where I’m needed? By working with programs like this, you learn a lot about your own struggles.”

All proceeds from the evening’s book sales went to both Inspiration Café and to sponsor the addition of subsidized summer camp for children involved with Family Promise.

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