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The Small Accessibility Repairs for Seniors (SARFS) program repaired flooring throughout the two-story home of Mabel, an 85-year-old who has lived in Rogers Park since the 1950s. As Mabel is 80 percent blind, she was having trouble navigating from room to room of the house. The old floor was uneven and badly worn, and Mabel could easily have tripped and fallen, ending up with a broken hip or worse. SARFS also replaced both outer access doors to Mabel’s home, and thanks to these sturdy new doors, Mabel feels much safer at night.

Anne & Sarah

Anne and Sarah are tenants of a nearby 4 + 1-style apartment building. The two roommates came to the Housing Program for help just before closing time on a warm evening this spring. The next day, our staff toured the apartment and took photographs.

Leaking pipes and radiators had caused severe damage to the ceiling in the kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom. Pieces of plaster still hung from the ceiling, and in some spots, leakage had deteriorated the plaster to expose the wooden lathe. Although the building owner had responded to initial complaints, nothing had been done beyond a cursory clean-up. The holes remained, while bits of plaster and wallboard continued to drop down.

As Anne and Sarah had not yet requested repairs in writing, our staff helped them draft a letter detailing the situation and requesting repairs within the 14-day time period required by the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance. The women mailed the letter. After several days, the landlord had still not responded. When we phoned him ourselves, the landlord was apologetic but unwilling to meet us at the building and walk through the apartment. However, he agreed to send a maintenance crew to meet us there the next morning.

By the time we arrived, the crew was already working on the ceiling, while a plumber was busy repairing the leaks. Early the following week, work on the unit had been completed, and the walls and ceilings freshly painted.


Dorothy is a fiercely independent 83-year-old who has lived in the same Edgewater home for most of her life. Over the past 10 years, her grandniece and several caring neighbors have called 3-1-1 a host of times in order to report their concern for Dorothy’s well-being. Although Dorothy lives with clothing, papers and trash piled high in every room, she has consistently turned down heavy-duty chore services available through the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services (CDFSS). Dorothy is fully within her rights to deny assistance, as she has been judged fully competent according to State of Illinois standards.

When NCR was called upon to intervene, we took our time getting to know Dorothy and establishing a foundation of trust and confidence. Although she initially declined to admit us into her home, she happily allowed us to run small errands on her behalf and surprise her with chocolate desserts. Over time, Dorothy confided to us that grocery shopping was becoming harder and harder, especially in winter months. We promptly contacted Heart to Heart, a nonprofit organization that assists Edgewater seniors with shopping, medical appointments and special projects. Dorothy was at first reluctant, but she finally agreed to a needs assessment with Heart to Heart-as long as we remained present. That was last fall. Dorothy has since been matched with a dedicated volunteer, a recently retired nurse who takes great pleasure in helping Dorothy shop and get to appointments.

Dorothy eventually agreed to allow a specialized cleaning service access into her home for the purpose of establishing clear walkways from room to room and removing unsanitary debris from the kitchen area. Dorothy trusted us to respect her wishes and to make only limited changes to her surroundings, and we honor that trust. Today, we continue to offer our friendship and support, making small but significant improvements to Dorothy’s quality of life.


During our Multicultural Resource Program’s first ever North Side Immigrant College Forum held this past winter at Roger C. Sullivan High School, NCR staff became acquainted with Arianna, an 11th grader from the Chicago Math and Science Academy. Arianna was sitting in the auditorium reading a Northwestern University admissions brochure, with a stack of admissions materials from Loyola, DePaul and UIC on her lap. Arianna confided to staff that she didn’t expect to be admitted to college. “Why not?” we asked. “You’re obviously taking steps in the right direction to go to college; you’re here, aren’t you?” Arianna shared that her grades were dropping due to problems at home: her brother was getting into trouble with his friends, and her parents were undocumented.

We asked Arianna what extracurricular activities she was involved with. “I work part-time after school,” she replied. We assured Arianna that most universities consider work outside the home as an extracurricular activity that demonstrates both self-sufficiency and maturity. In turn, Arianna told us that she had been very moved by the personal narrative of one of the forum panelists, a member of the Immigrant Youth Justice League. The panelist’s story resonated with Arianna, who had never known an outspoken undocumented person, let alone someone in her own peer group. Arianna revealed that college was not something she had planned for because of her family’s mixed status and her many familial obligations. But after hearing so many empowering stories from people much like her, Arianna’s insecurities about applying to college were lessened. She is currently applying to a number of local institutions.


Immobilized by a chronic muscular condition and an inner ear problem that affected his balance, Frank was restricted to taking sponge baths at the sink in his home, which he had shared with his wife for 40 years until her death in 2009. While he longed to take a real shower, Frank was afraid to slip and fall.

The SARFS program administrator paid a number of visits to Frank in his home, evaluating repairs and ultimately arranging for contractors to begin work a few days later.

Workers outfitted the outdated bathroom with a hand-held shower and transfer bench, allowing Frank to remain seated both inside and outside the tub. Grab bars helped him to keep steady when standing upright.

Frank was so pleased with the finished job and so grateful for the workers’ patient and respectful attitude that he recommended SARFS and NCR to many friends and neighbors.