Twenty-four year old Cody moved to Chicago in the summer of 2020, with the promise of a new job and a better life. But once he arrived, having travelled all the way from California, the stark reality of a city in the midst of a global pandemic became devastatingly apparent. His job opportunity had evaporated, and all at once Cody found himself completely alone and unexpectedly homeless.
“The life I was trying to get away from in California prevented me from returning there,” Cody explains. “I had lost my ID and social security card, and I had no place to stay. I didn’t know what to do.” With no money and no place to sleep, Cody was forced to go to a shelter. He was scared and alone, but while there he met another youth who told him about CHIL, and that we could help him get his ID.
Cody walked into the CHIL drop-in center the very next day, a decision he now credits with changing everything.
CHIL did help Cody get his social security card and ID, but that was just the beginning. “When I first got to CHIL, it was like a weight was lifted,” he says. “At first I would come to eat, take a nap in a safe space, and participate in some of the group sessions. But at first I mostly kept to myself – it took me a while to get more comfortable and open up to people.”
One of the people Cody did open up to was Nicole, his CHIL case manage. “She let me know that resources where available when I need them,” he explains. It was a huge stress reliever.” Among other services, Nicole shared information about CHIL’s interim housing program, and Cody promptly signed up for the waiting list.
“I remember getting the call that there was a spot open in the residential program,” says Cody. “And although I was nervous – I’d never spent any real time in a shelter and didn’t know what to expect – I now know I made the right choice to stay at CHIL. I appreciate all the help I got.”
Cody describes some of the help he received while a resident at CHIL, and is especially grateful for the staff members who made him feel so at home. “Some of the youth advisors really connect with you,” he recounts. “They helped me with my mental health a lot – just feeling welcome and not having to worry about where I was going to sleep or how I was going to eat made a huge difference.”
Cody made some big personal changes during his time at CHIL. “I’m working out now, and taking better care of myself,” he says. “And I’m definitely more appreciative of the things I have now.” With the help of Nicole, Cody also set some long-term goals for himself, including his dream of making music. “I know I need to keep working, saving money, staying stable, and mostly importantly make sure I never go back.”
After 120 days in our residential program, Cody left CHIL in late March, 2021. He now lives in his own apartment and is working as an assistant manager at a local restaurant. Reflecting on the time he spent at CHIL and what the organization means to him, he thinks of the homeless people he sometimes sees under bridges and in makeshift tent cities. “That could easily have been me,” he says. “Imagine if I hadn’t found CHIL or if I’d come here a year from now when I’d be 25…”*
Ultimately, Cody considers himself lucky. “CHIL meant security when I didn’t have any, He says. “It’s like a really big stepping stone – you just gotta be ready to take that step.”
*CHIL serves young adults ages 18-24