Apr 07, 2014

Women Helping Women shines spotlight on work of Chicago House

For a woman living with HIV/AIDS, making it through each day is like swimming upstream against the undercurrents of emotional, financial and health-related challenges.

It would be daunting for anyone to manage. If that woman is also a mother with children to care for, well, that’s when things can get truly complicated—but not impossible. Thanks to Chicago House and Social Service Agency, these families are thrown a lifeline in the form of affordable housing and other essentials.

Women Helping Women will partner with Chicago House at its Mix-and-Mingle on Wednesday, April 30, at Lloyd’s Chicago. Hosted by the women attorneys of Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., WHW is an after-hours event for professional women to network with other entrepreneurs, decision makers and potential strategic partners while simultaneously serving the community.

Guests enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres at each mixer, which highlights the work of a different not for profit organization serving women or women and their children. For the Chicago House event, guests are asked to donate books, board games or non-perishable food items.

Chicago House was the first agency in the Midwest to open a family housing program, one of several it offers to people who have been disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, said Judy Perloff, chief program officer.

“There is an intersection between homelessness, poverty and HIV,” Perloff said. “In the 1980s, when Chicago House was founded, it was gay men with HIV who were being forced out into the streets due to discrimination. In the ‘90s, women became the new demographic. They were contracting HIV from their partners, and families were being displaced as a result of that and their own families rejecting them.”

Chicago House’s Family Support Program provides not only a place to call home but also mental health services, case management and career counseling for the moms, plus developmental opportunities for their kids. A key component is the highly effective after-school mentoring program, which pairs each young person with an individual tutor for academic encouragement and immerses them in music, fine arts, theater and other road-to-success influencers.

According to Perloff, statistics show that Chicago House youth have a higher graduation rate than other students in Chicago Public Schools and are more likely to enroll in college and graduate.

“With this program we try really hard to break the cycle of homelessness, poverty, food insecurity, an incomplete education and under-developed work record that often comes with the HIV-positive diagnosis,” Perloff said.

Loretto Kennedy, a principal at Chuhak & Tecson, has been impressed with the work of Chicago House since she learned about it from a friend.

“They’re very holistic in their approach,” Kennedy said. “They address all of the challenges that come with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis, whether it be housing or financial services or emotional support. They don’t just react; they’re incredibly proactive.”

This will be the 10th Mix-and-Mingle hosted by Women Helping Women since the initiative was launched in 2009. The mixer is becoming so popular that, for the first time, Chuhak & Tecson has bought out the entire restaurant so there will be plenty of room to mix and mingle.

“This event has become bigger and bigger every time,” Kennedy said. “There’s a growing commitment by women who have attended in the past and also a great buzz among women in the community who have heard about it and want to attend.

“Not only are they eager to enjoy the networking opportunities available, but they’re also excited to support great Chicago-based organizations in a worthy cause,” she said.

The Mix-and-Mingle will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at Lloyd’s Chicago, 1 S. Wacker Dr. If you would like to receive an invitation, please contact Katie Walsh at (312) 201-3447 or