Between the two of them, Brighton Park moms Princess Gonzales and Maribel Saenz work four different jobs.
In the mornings, Princess is a parent mentor with Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC), serving as a teacher’s aide to a 3rd grade class. Then, in the afternoons, she and Maribel tag-team cleaning AirBnB rentals, as well as monitoring the digital hotel service’s helpline.
In the evenings and weekends, the two canvas their community, educating their neighbors about the 2020 Census. And when money’s tight, they pick up Uber Eats shifts to plug the holes in their budget.
On top of that, Princess is also enrolled in school to receive her real estate broker’s license, so she can provide a more stable source of income for their family.
That’s all in addition to raising three daughters, ages 5, 13 and 15.
“We manage to juggle and move things around to make it work,” Princess said. “We do it together. There’s stress, but that’s what pushed me to join the broker’s class. We’ll still work hard, but the reward will be a lot more.”
Circumstances like this are all too common for working Illinoisans. Across the Prairie State, more than 1.2 million households (36%) walk a financial tightrope, working multiple jobs to cover basic living necessities.
A new report from United Way of Illinois sheds light on the financial hardship so many of our neighbors face. ALICE — an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — is a subset of the population who are above the poverty line but don’t earn enough to afford housing, childcare, food, transportation, healthcare and a phone.
As noted in the report, members of ALICE households work jobs that are vital to maintaining a stable economy, though they aren’t high paying positions. More ALICE workers are being employed part-time, on demand or as part of the “gig economy” — all jobs with inconsistent schedules and incomes. While they may be working, the instability of the work makes it even harder for ALICE families to pay the bills and manage needs like child care, train fare or car repairs.
For Princess and Maribel, this reality has become a juggling act. Day in and day out, they’re on the go, working to provide for their family of five.
But through it all, they’re abundantly optimistic and thankful, leaning on each other and their community to get through.
“We just support each other,” Princess said of her and Maribel. “We give each other tasks…We do things based on our strengths and weaknesses.”
“Everything works out. We’re so lucky. If we need more money, we do more Uber Eats at night or on weekends,” Princess said of their staggered work shifts. “We also love how BPNC is helping us and giving us the opportunity to make money and contribute to the community.”
With the ALICE report and stories like Princess’ and Maribel’s, lawmakers, social service providers, and organizations — like United Way of Metro Chicago — are better equipped to support and advocate for our neighbors who are struggling to survive.
“The ALICE report will help illuminate pockets of need in our communities that often get overlooked by more traditional measurements of economic hardship,” said Eithne McMenamin, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for United Way of Illinois. “It provides a data-based framework for engaging with our corporate, non-profit, and government partners to strengthen and grow our communities.”