Homeless Man Gets Second Chance at Life

Michael Chambers lived on sidewalk on Lower Wacker Drive for almost 15 years

Michael Chambers is looking forward to spending Christmas with a family he hasn't seen in almost 15 years.

One of the thousands of homeless in Chicago, Chambers dropped out of school, hit the bottle and made his home under Lower Wacker Drive. He disappeared for so long his family and friends thought he was dead.

"I didn't want to abide by anybody's rules," he explained. "I wanted to do my own thing."

Chambers spent his evenings sleeping on a piece of sidewalk under the Hyatt Hotel. A heating vent from a parking garage nearby provided some warmth and even some warm water. He survived on panhandling and a bit of entrepreneurship, "borrowing" construction barricades and using them to block off metered parking spaces.

"When they come, I move them out of the way, and there’s a quick 10 dollars," he said.

Life went on that way, day after day, until one March night earlier this year, when Christine Henry of the Salvation Army offered him a way out.

"I asked him, 'What’s your drug of choice?' And he said 'Alcohol,' and he blew it in my face," Henry recalled. "I was like, 'God answered your prayer.'"

Chambers accepted Henry's help and now lives at the Salvation Army’s Harbor Lights Center on the West Side.

He has a full-time job, four grand children, and a daughter he hasn’t seen since she was nine months old.

"If it hadn't been for this place here, I'd have never found my daughter," he said. "That's the God's honest truth."


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