HOPES was founded in 2006, as an initiative of the Chicago Public Schools' Department of Educational Support for Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS). The manager of STLS, Patricia Rivera, wanted to add services for homeless students and enlisted the help of AmeriCorps VISTAs to achieve that goal. The first group of VISTAs established Chicago HOPES as a free after-school tutoring and enrichment program based in Chicago homeless shelters that serve families with children.

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Chicago HOPES began in fall 2006 with programs in two shelters, Cornerstone Community Outreach in Uptown and Maria Shelter in Englewood. The following spring HOPES added two new sites, Thelma’s Place in Auburn-Gresham and Ubuntu Community Center in Brighton Park. Growth continued, and thanks to a generous grant, in 2009-2010 Chicago HOPES ran programs in 27 shelters throughout the city.

Over the years Chicago HOPES has also added cultural and personal enrichment activities, as well as occasional field trips, to the shelter-based tutoring program. Local arts and science organizations and individuals, among others, have partnered with Chicago HOPES to provide enrichment activities in shelters. Field trip destinations in summer 2010 included the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Children's Museum, MLK Family Fun Center, and, as part of the Grow Hope garden curriculum, the University of Illinois Agricultural Extension in Chicago. Summer tutoring sessions focus on academic reinforcement to bridge the months between school years and are primarily dedicated to our core values of literacy, math, and independent learning skills. 

Chicago HOPES remains committed to its mission of volunteer-based tutoring to provide academic support for students in Chicago shelters. In addition to homework help and enrichment activities, HOPES offers math and reading programs to supplement students' classroom achievement.

In spring 2010, Chicago HOPES started Grow Hope, a community gardening project in some of its shelters. Students at those sites helped to nurture the plants and learning hands-on about agriculture, nutrition, and our environment. Last fall, we held a planting celebration as we consolidated our gardens at Lena Washington Food and Shelter in North Lawndale.

What's Next

In the future Chicago HOPES intends to grow its shelter tutoring program to all Chicago homeless shelters that serve families with children or unaccompanied youth.

In spring 2011 Chicago HOPES began the process of becoming an independent 501c3 organization. For more on that process and how to get involved, visit the "What's Ahead" page.