Caring for Mental Health at Deborah’s Place

Helping the homeless isn’t just about providing a roof and a bed. The Chicago organization Deborah’s Place has understood this since they began providing services to women who were currently or had previously experienced homelessness. Deborah’s Place recognized homelessness as a trauma and the formation of relationships as the road to healing. Beginning as an overnight shelter in 1985, the organization grew to include Irene’s Daytime Program, Marah’s Place transitional housing, and other programs that provided women with basic needs, education, job training, and the support needed to help them gain self-sufficiency and confidence.

The women coming to Deborah’s Place had not only suffered from not having housing, but had also often struggled with domestic violence, sexual assault, addiction, and mental illness. Along with a health services coordinator and case managers who helped each woman on her own individual journey, Irene’s Daytime Program employed a full-time art therapist. Just as showers, laundry facilities, and food provided for the physical health of participants, art therapy and classes became an essential part of caring for the mental health of these homeless women. Deborah’s Place believed these opportunities for socialization, creativity, and self-expression were just as vital to the participants’ well-being.

Several photos of art classes and projects were found in the Deborah’s Place records.

Deborah’s Place programs allowed participants to work with a variety of media.

Deborah’s Place programs allowed participants to work with a variety of media.

The participants at Marah’s, a transitional housing program, created this quilt together and submitted it in a Deborah’s Place art show.

The participants at Marah’s, a transitional housing program, created this quilt together and submitted it in a Deborah’s Place art show.

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Quilt squares made by participants at Marah’s.

Along with the health of participants, Deborah’s Place cared for the mental and emotional health of program staff. Employees were provided with opportunities to process the challenges of working with participants on a daily basis. A 1996 annual report from the Clinical Director also acknowledged that several staff members were former participants in the program who would benefit from further support in dealing with the transition in roles.

The records of Deborah’s Place reveal the building of a community based on relationships in which burdens were shared and the physical, emotional, and mental needs of all were met.

This is just one facet of this organization’s inspiring story.  To learn more about Deborah’s Place, take a look at the collection’s finding aid here.

 


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies with her husband.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Blizzard Blitz, 1979

Chicagoland is currently experiencing frigid temperatures made worse by a biting wind. The reason this is noteworthy is because the fall of 2015 turned out to be unseasonably warm, resulting in many of us mentally unprepared for usual winter cold weather.

With forecasts for the next several days in the low teens and several inches of snow Monday night, I went in search of Mundelein College winter photos.* What I found falls under the category of “be happy it’s not worse!” In 1979, Chicago experienced a blizzard of record breaking proportions that also affected the mayoral race.

On Saturday, January 13 and Sunday, January 14th, Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana received 21 inches of show, at the time, the second largest Chicago snowstorm in history. Five people died and 15 received serious injuries from the snowfall. Flights to and from O’Hare airport were grounded for 96 hours from January 13 to 15.

After the blizzard, cold weather and additional snowfall continued affecting Chicagoland public transportation and trash collection for months. Mayor Michael Bilandic was blamed for the city’s inadequate response to the weather. Bilandic’s main opponent in the February 27th mayoral primary, Jane Byrne, capitalized on these problems and defeated him, going on to become the first female mayor of Chicago.

Here’s what Mundelein College looked like after the 1979 snow.

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1979 Blizzard Blitz: A car and bulldozer are pictured next to Piper Hall after the blizzard.

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1979 Blizzard Blitz: Shoveling the sidewalks at Mundelein College.

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1979 Blizzard Blitz: Mundelein campus after snow plows cleared some of the snow.

1979 Blizzard Blitz: Enjoying the snow at Mundelein.

1979 Blizzard Blitz: A member of the Mundelein community enjoys the snow on cross-country skis.

 

* Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. The Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) at Loyola holds the records of Mundelein College.

 


IMG_0021-149x110Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.