Seventeen years ago, while living in a recovery home, David McGowan received an offer he couldn’t refuse. A native Chicagoan from the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, David was invited to leave the recovery home he shared with 18 other men and move into his own furnished studio apartment in Wicker Park.
Having been homeless for years, David quickly accepted the invitation, though it meant embarking on the grueling journey of recovering from drug addiction.
That life-changing offer came in October 2001 from Renaissance Social Services (RSSI), a United Way of Metro Chicago community partner working to end homelessness in Chicago. Each year, RSSI places hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable individuals, like David, in permanent supportive housing, while also helping to tackle their other challenges.
In its 21-year tenure, leaders of Renaissance Social Services have recognized that homelessness and poor health work in tandem. Homelessness can be both the result and cause of mental and physical health issues, and stable housing, in addition to supportive health services, is a critical factor in improving people’s mental and physical health.
Utilizing a variety of wraparound services, RSSI case managers and other community providers address and help clients mitigate the root causes of their housing insecurity, including mental illness, chronic health conditions, substance use disorders and more.
In 2017, RSSI housed 252 homeless individuals and families and provided clinical services that resulted in 81 percent remaining out of inpatient psychiatric facilities, 92 percent avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations, and 82 percent achieving mental health stability.