For some, things can seem hopeless during the cold winter. That feeling is amplified for those who are homeless or living in poverty in Logan Square. However, locals in need will find that the Pope Francis Center can help, and with more than just finding a warm place to stay.
The Pope Francis Center (92815 N. Kimball Ave.) is a nonprofit resource center that offers personalized help for the homeless and underprivileged in the Logan Square and Avondale areas.
The center recently celebrated their second year in operation with a free health care event on Jan. 15. They regularly provide services such as:
- Homelessness prevention
- Public benefit applications (LINK, TANF, Medicaid, Obamacare)
- Immigration referrals
- Help with landlord issues
- Job preparation
- Financial literacy assistance
- Computer and internet resources
“We try to help people transition out of poverty.” said Pamela Matambanadzo, the center’s co-director.
Matambanadzo explained that the center focuses on a one-on-one approach of mentorship and guidance to empower people to beat poverty. “We let the needs of the person determine how we help them,” she said.
This includes offering long-term solutions, such as resume help and English tutoring to gradually end the poverty cycle.
The center also focuses on homelessness prevention and help for those already on the street. Many people who walk into the center have no identification and no mailbox, so the center provides temporary photo IDs and a P.O. box to use free of charge.
Word of mouth is the biggest promotion for the center, which is tucked away behind the Bank of America at the six-way intersection of Milwaukee, Kimball, and Diversey. Most people who come to the center hear about it through family and friends or through center volunteers who periodically hand out flyers, food, and supplies on the street.
Hospitality Manager Ronnie Brito is stationed at the center’s front desk Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., ready to greet those who come in for help.
“People come here with a lot of baggage,” said Brito. But he tries to be as warm and welcoming as possible. “People just want to be heard, validated, treated with respect,” he said.
Both Matambanadzo and Brito stressed that the center does what it can but more support is always needed.
“It all comes down to funds,” said Brito. “But if someone can leave [the center] with some encouraging words, that’s enough.”
The Pope Francis Center operates under The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Chicago. To donate or find volunteering opportunities visit their website.
Photo: PFC Staff Members Ian Ryder, Pam Matambanadzo, and Ronnie Brito.