Homeless in Chicago: One woman's storyBisi never expected to end up in a shelter. The mother of two, who wished to be identified by her first name only, has two degrees and until last year she had a secure job.
But in January 2007 Bisi left her position at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare to start her own interior decorating business and didn’t count on her nest egg diminishing so quickly.
“I had some money saved up for six months rent, but I didn’t put the proper planning into it. The bills kept piling up and there’s no way I could keep up,” said Bisi, 34, who was born in Chicago but moved back to the city from Nigeria in 1995.
She’s been at the Primo Center for Women and Children since September and she’s getting her life back on track. She’s working part-time and is in school, looking to earn her master’s degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Bisi plans to be able to move into her own permanent housing in January.
“The ball is in my court,” she said.
When her financial troubles began, Bisi initially stayed with an aunt and was looking for full-time work but had no luck landing a job.
“An additional challenge for people is that competition for jobs and workforce development is greatly increasing. The opportunities are diminishing as employers look for people with more experience,” said Christine Achre, the CEO of the Primo Center.
Once Bisi acknowledged she needed help, she took on a new attitude about her situation and landing at the Primo Center renewed her faith in herself.
“When you’re going through something like this, you don’t want everyone in your business. You worry about pride and dignity. But then I realized I was hiding behind nothing,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to let this stop me.’ I’m grateful for where I’m at.”
Bisi is a junior pastor at her church and hopes to use her experience to make her a better minister.
“After this, I want to use my psychology degree to help minister to people who are less privileged, to reach out and let them know that there is hope, that I know what they’re going through,” Bisi said. “I don’t want to be a doctor and make the big bucks. I just want to minister to people.”
After she leaves the shelter, Bisi will work to ensure she never becomes homeless again.
“When you go through something like this, it makes you appreciate what you had before,” Bisi said. “It makes you try harder in the future.”