Family of 8 living out of minivan offered helping hand after NBC Chicago story

Alicia, her partner and their children, ages 1 to 14 have been living in a van in Chicago's Austin neighborhood since May

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Chicago family of eight, including six children, who for the past four months been living in a minivan in the city's Austin neighborhood will soon have a permanent place to call home thanks to the help of local organizations, State Rep. La Shawn Ford tells NBC Chicago.

Monday, NBC Chicago reported that Alicia, her partner and her six children ages 1 to 14, had been living in a van parked in an empty lot in South Austin, following the death of Alicia's father.

"This is our home right now," Alicia told NBC Chicago. "One person has to stay up while the other person watches our surroundings," Alicia said. "The kids wake up on and off … they cant stretch much."

The family had been on an affordable housing waiting list through the Chicago Housing Authority, Ford said. However, aid started to pour in after NBC Chicago shared their story.

Local organizations Primo Center and BUILD Chicago have both offered shelter, support and hygiene services to Alicia and her family.

And Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson said her office will provide the family with a voucher for a 10-day stay at a local hotel. The family checked into the hotel Tuesday afternoon, Thompson's office said, where the Broadview Police Chief and other members of the department welcomed them.

According to Ford, the goal is to place the family in a permanent home by the end of the week, and Ford has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise additional funds.

'I don't want anyone to be in my predicament'

Alicia's partner and father of her children works full-time at a local restaurant. While the family is grateful to have some money coming in, it's not enough to afford a home. And feeding the children, has become a daily struggle.

"It's hard… especially when they ask you for certain stuff and you cant get it or they say they're hungry and you can't feed them," she said. "Sometimes you feel you're failing as a mother."

Through the work of NBC Chicago's documentary, "Homeless Youth: An Invisible Crisis," we learned affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges in Chicago, according to the Chicago Homeless Coalition.

Alicia said she understands her family is not the only one facing housing insecurities and appreciates any help provided.

"It's sad… everyone has their own problems. I wish we could all get help. I don't want anyone to be in my predicament," she said.

Aside from housing, Alicia said her priority is also to get her children enrolled in school. Without an address, she did not know how to navigate that process.

NBC Chicago reached out to Chicago Public Schools officials to see what options the family had. A spokesperson said the children can be enrolled without a permanent address.

CPS reported that as of April 2023, at least 16,844 students identify as STLS, or students in temporary living situations. Students enrolled in the program have access to numerous resources through the program, which Alicia and her children can enroll in.

"I want them to go to school and be comfortable instead of being in a car every day in the sun… it's hot," Alicia said.

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