The following content is created in consultation with United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Chicago's editorial staff. To learn more about United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, visit LIVEUNITEDchicago.org.

From unemployment to domestic violence, sometimes there isn’t much separating a family or an individual from crises.

In the Chicago Metropolitan Area alone, too many individuals do not have the resources to meet their most basic needs. A slow recovery from the recession, high unemployment and a shortage of affordable housing all contribute to people struggling for stability.

People like Julie, a single mom with three children who had been living with her mother and brother for several years just to make ends meet. But when Julie's hours were drastically cut at work and her mother was forced to move out of state, suddenly the family could no longer cover their portion of the rent. After several months, Julie's brother kicked her and the children out of the house, rendering them homeless.

With nowhere else to go, Julie and her three children were forced to lead a transient life. Days were spent huddled together in the car while Julie drove around looking for jobs, while nights involved shuffling from one church shelter to the next in search of a hot meal and cot to sleep on.

The situation seemed hopeless, until a volunteer at a United Way partner agency site told Julie she should come back for assistance and support. The very next day she did. The agency immediately did a screening for all services they offer and she received food, a gas card, a clothing voucher for her and her children, and employment resources.

Over the course of the next month, Julie came twice a week to fill out online job applications and to look for apartments with a case manager. Within four weeks, Julie had started a new job, and two weeks after that she and her family were in their own new apartment.

Julie said she felt down and out when she became homeless but that the United Way partner agency staff instilled her with the confidence she needed to get back on her feet. Today, Julie still utilizes the food pantry once a month, and — through the help of her friends at the United Way partner agency — recently registered for a low-cost Certified Nurse Assistant course.

Julie might still be homeless had it not been for that United Way-funded agency and staff who helped her achieve her own self-sufficiency. Ultimately, Julie did all the work, but it was the staff who helped her reclaim her life by connecting her to the resources she needed.

It takes a network of agencies, services and supporters to create opportunity and make positive changes for those in need. That’s why United Way invests in programs and partnerships — from homeless shelters and meal programs, to domestic violence assistance and legal aid — that help stabilize families and individuals who are encountering some of the most critical challenges they will ever face. And it’s working! In 2015, more than one million local people in crisis received assistance in the form of food, shelter or safety.

By donating to United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, your gift will help transform individual lives and strengthen entire neighborhoods. Together, we are changing the story.

*The names of individuals have been changed to protect their privacy. 

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