Dominique, Mercy Housing Lakefront resident

“I’m blessed to have a roof over our heads”

Dominique is a 32-year old single mother who lives at Mercy Housing Lakefront’s (MHL) Washington Courts in Chicago’s Austin community. She was born and raised in the North Lawndale community, located about five miles south of Austin. “I moved with my one-year-old daughter Maliha in 2009 to Indianapolis, because I had family issues here…I lived with my cousin for about for some time.”  There was also a lot of drama in Indianapolis with her cousin, so she came back to Illinois. By 2010, “I enrolled in community college, and in 2011, “I received my Perc Card, and started work at Security Company.” Dominique moved to DeKalb, IL in December 2013, but she still worked in the city. “My apartment was broken into while I was in Chicago…I really wanted to get us out of DeKalb, it was not safe because the police let them go.” As a result, she moved her family back to Chicago in May of 2015.

One day, Dominique received a call from a friend about affordable housing at Washington and Lavergne Courts on Chicago’s westside. “I heard about Mercy Housing through a friend, they called me up one day and told me about it in 2014…I applied.” After leaving her apartment in Dekalb, IL, Dominique, and her daughter lived with a family member before living in a homeless shelter on the northside of Chicago in 2015. “My daughter was getting fed up and we were going through a lot financially.”

Dominique with her two children, Maliha and AzarielWhile she waited for her housing application to be approved, Dominique earned her high-school equivalency diploma in 2015. In 2016, her Mercy Housing application was approved, and she moved into Washington Courts. Shortly after moving in, her son, Azariel, was born. To improve her education, Dominique decided to earn an associate degree in Criminal Justice from McCormick College. “I had one class to go but I ran out of funds.” Three years after living at Washington Courts, an MHL Resident Services Coordinator told her about the Holy Family Ministries opportunity for Maliha.

As part of this partnership, Holy Family Ministries offers subsidized tuition for families at Lavergne and Washington Courts. Prior to Holy Families, Maliha attended a local CPS school, down the street from where she lived. However, she was not getting the help she needed, “My daughter was reading at a first-grade level while in third grade and they failed her.” Dominique transferred her daughter to a Kipp Charter School. “She wasn’t being taught social studies and other subjects.” She wanted to ensure that her daughter received the best educational opportunities, so she applied to enroll her daughter at Holy Family Ministries. Maliha was enrolled and started school at Holy Family at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. “Maliha, improved a lot over the school year 2019-2020.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, Dominique had just started working full-time at Monterrey Security in January. “When COVID started, I couldn’t work anymore because my kids were at home…I worked the night shifts, so I couldn’t be there in the morning to help them get ready for school.” To make matters more challenging, her sister moved. Dominique relied on her sister as her primary babysitter. Since her mother works for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), she is an essential employee and is at higher risk of contracting the virus. Because her children have asthma, they are at high risk of hospitalization if they contract COVID-19. Thus, Dominique had no choice but to stay at home to watch the kids, while her career stays on hiatus. “I’m just trying to pay the utility bills and the rent…It’s been hard…It’s not hard for me to find a job…I just need help finding childcare.”

To keep her kids entertained, Mercy Housing Resident Services provided games and activities for her kids to do at home. “They both have been kind of depressed [since COVID-19], they want to go outside and play…Cedric, the RSC, gave out hooked-on-phonics activities for my son and board games for the both of them back in May. Cedric, the RSC also gave them books in July. “I am able to read to my children every night now. I am grateful for the help I receive.”

As she reflects on her time living at Washington Courts, Dominique said: “I’m blessed to [now] have a roof over me and my kids head…We’ve been through a lot financially, emotionally.” She appreciates the enriching and well-rounded education Maliha receives at Holy Family Ministries. “Mercy has helped me out a lot, I mean that mentally and emotionally, as well.”