This month, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc awarded a generous grant to Enlace Chicago to support construction of a new 9,000 sq. ft. office and community space in Little Village, ensuring completion of the project.
The new building will allow Enlace to better provide comprehensive services in the areas of education, health, immigration/legal aid, and violence prevention. The three-story building will have a spacious welcome center, multi-purpose community rooms, several one-on-one counseling rooms, a rooftop garden, and efficient workspaces for Enlace’s growing staff.
“Our new building will help us work more efficiently and will serve as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for Little Village community members seeking services and opportunities” says Katya Nuques, Enlace’s Executive Director.
In 2014, Enlace received a $2 million capital grant from the Department of Commerce and Economy Opportunity (DCEO) for the project. In June 2015, Enlace received a letter stating that the grant was not re-appropriated and funds were frozen due to the budget impasse. In collaboration with other agencies whose capital funds had also been frozen, Enlace worked to obtain permission to spend the first DCEO grant installment. In May, Enlace received a letter stating that it would be allowed to spend 25% of the total funds.
Enlace was not able to delay construction any longer in anticipation of the remaining funds, as it was responsible to the expectations of DCEO and other funders. With support from IFF, it completed a second financial feasibility study that included an ideal construction plan and budget, as well as an alternate plan and budget that would satisfy the short timelines set forth by DCEO and other project supporters by allowing Enlace to move forward without the additional state funding. Since then, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and many other supporters and community members, have given generously in order to make this project possible. The latest contribution from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc, will make construction of Enlace’s complete 3-floor design possible.
The new building will be located on a residential block, on the former site of an abandoned building across the street from Enlace’s current office. Construction of the new building, at 2759 S. Harding Ave, has already begun. A Grand Opening Ceremony is planned for the summer of 2018.
Why a new building?
In 2001, Enlace purchased its current main office, which was appropriate for what was at that time a staff of five. The building continues to serve as Enlace’s main office even though staff size has grown to 40 full-time and well-over 100 part-time. Enlace programming is severely restricted by lack of adequate space. For example, Enlace organizes community-based workshops and provides free legal services through a partnership with the Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA) in order to support residents with cases related to a range of issues, including immigration, family law, employment and housing. Currently, lines for the legal clinic fill the front of the office and occasionally run out of the doors. Three offices, including a converted closet, are used for closed-door consultations with attorneys, requiring Enlace staff to work elsewhere. Enlace’s immigration services will only expand as the organization works hard to respond to the difficulties of the current climate related to immigration enforcement and policy.
While the ability to use school space to provide programming and services is essential to Enlace’s model, many schools are overcrowded, struggle to provide the resources necessary, and are not open at all hours or during the entire year. Enlace’s Post-secondary Coordinators and School-Based Mentors work primarily in schools and are limited in their access to private space for one-on-one mentoring. Post-secondary Coordinators address the needs of undocumented and first generation college students by creating individualized post-secondary plans and support. Master’s level School-Based Mentors provide clinical counseling using a comprehensive approach that includes case management, crisis response, social-emotional supports, certified academic enrichment, family involvement and collaboration with various networks to provide wraparound services and advocacy.
All Enlace staff working with youth and families struggle to find comfortable space for larger activities, as well as accessible computers. Because of the lack of a “save haven” on the west side of the neighborhood, west side street outreach staff frequently meet with youth in inadequate settings in order to do their work. These staff work with the community’s highest risk and gang-involved youth to provide mentorship, safe spaces, and connections to needed services and resources. A Street-Based Counselor program just launched this year to provide critical mental health support and case management to these same high-risk youth and their family members. Adequate space for group work and counseling sessions is critical to the effective function for these programs.
Confidential spaces are also critical to Enlace’s trained Community Health Workers (CHWs). CHWs respond to the unique needs of Little Village families and ensure that they have access to health care, food, shelter, mental health services and other basic needs. CHWs conduct extensive phone and in-person outreach, and require privacy in order to complete applications for health coverage and other public benefits that require confidential client information.
The development of a new facility is critical for Enlace’s sustainability as an organization. It will ensure that Enlace is able to maintain its current programming and staffing structures, and take full advantage of the resources that are available to support its natural growth. The new facility will be outfitted with up-to-date IT and communications systems, allowing Enlace staff to work from the building itself, or to work remotely at hubs throughout the community. These systems will reinforce alignment of services by increasing the ease and effectiveness of intake and referral.
Currently, Enlace serves over 8,000 Little Village residents through its two offices, eight local school partnerships and other collaborative arrangements that provide space for programming and services. In its first year, this new facility alone will allow Enlace to serve more than 3,000 additional residents.
There is still more to do! If you are interested in donating to Enlace’s capital project, please contact email@example.com or visit our donation page.