Homeless Chicagoans get weekly meals and access to job help, health screening and housing through The Chicago Help Initiative.
The Help Initiative, located on the 700 block of North La Salle, provides Chicago’s homeless with a meal every Wednesday and connects them to various social services like health care, housing and jobs.
Jacqueline Hayes, founder and president of The Chicago Help Initiative, said the program is unique because it connects people to a variety of social services. Hayes said there aren’t any other programs like it in the city.
“The way that The Chicago Help Initiative is a little differentiated is that we provide a lot of different services, if you will,” Hayes said. “What we do is we bring in a different social service agency in every week to talk to our guests, and to help them to get their criminal records expunged, and to learn about job training programs. Almost anything that you can imagine to help somebody improve their life.”
Each Wednesday, 130 people are fed in the dining room, Hayes said. Every week the event reaches capacity, and the people who aren’t able to stay are provided bag lunches.
Volunteers help serve the meals, which are provided by businesses across the city, Hayes said. And more important than providing a good meal, the Help Initiative serves a greater purpose in helping make people’s lives better.
“We connect people, that’s our biggest goal,” Hayes said. “The food is the draw, but then everything else is a connection. We connect them with things that can help them.”