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Giving Back Blog

  • Writer's pictureAscension Illinois Foundation

Housing Ministry Restores Joy for Milo


Milo (left), pictured with Ascension Illinois Occupational Therapy Assistant Ray Cendejas, is forever grateful for the help and care he received at Ascension Illinois's Bonaventure House in Chicago, Illinois.

On a Friday in October 2020, as coronavirus began its second surge in Chicago, a room opened for Milo at Bonaventure House, a state-licensed recovery home that is part of the Ascension Illinois Housing and Health Alliance.

“I had nowhere to go. I was homeless, and this was the only place that I wanted to come,” said Milo.

More than a year later, Milo has maintained his sobriety. He reestablished ties and trust with his family. Thanks to financial assistance with books, laptop and classes, he is on track to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor, and is looking forward to giving back to the community.

“Bonaventure has restored the joy within me that I lost,” Milo said. “I’m not in turmoil anymore. I’m at peace, and with peace comes joy.”

Housing is Healthcare

Every year more than 330 adults who have a chronic illness and are in addiction recovery receive stable, supportive housing from the Ascension Illinois Housing and Health Alliance.

Nine in 10 residents live at or below the poverty line. Most have a history of substance abuse or mental illness, and about half of residents are diagnosed with both types of disorders.

“Some of our residents were living on a friend’s or family member’s couch when they came to us. Some were coming from a shelter, an inpatient recovery unit or a correctional facility. Some were living out of their car, out of a train or on the street,” said Executive Director Korrey Kooistra.

Understanding that housing is a cornerstone of healthcare, the team and program take a holistic approach in working with residents. While providing stable housing, the team also works to promote physical, mental and spiritual health, with the goal of helping residents transition to healthy, independent living in the community.

This approach works: 96% of residents remain stably housed; 95% of residents who are in community housing maintain or increase their income while in our programs; and 45% of residents in transitional living who have no income participate in employment and skill-building programs.

“Our residents’ successes are made possible through the generosity of our donors,” said Kooistra. “They keep our doors open.”

Helping Others with Drug and Alcohol Counseling

Once the doors to Bonaventure House opened for Milo, he said someone was always available to help him with whatever he needed. For the first time, he felt listened to and understood. People heard his pain and shared in it.

“I was able to talk and feel safe. I didn’t feel like an outcast. Everyone opened their arms here,” he said. “Not only did they allow me a place to come, but they helped me to get my life back in order.”

The work he has done with counselors and groups helped him understand things he hadn’t before understood about himself, including some of the reasons he had used drugs. It also inspired him to pursue drug and alcohol counseling as a career.

“Everything was given to me here with love, with passion, with concern,” he said. “It has helped me want to become one of those people to help somebody.”

Forever Grateful

Beyond helping Milo with his sobriety, he said being at Bonaventure House, knowing that people care about him, and receiving so much kindness and generosity without condition, also changed his outlook and made him a better person.

“Life can make you bitter. I was a very bitter and broken person,” he said. “This place restored my confidence in people.”

Before, he did not know what tomorrow would bring and he did not look forward to finding out.

“Now, I wake up every day excited, because I know something great is going to happen today,” he said. “It’s just so good to be at peace.”

Milo said he will be forever grateful to everybody who is responsible for keeping the doors open and making the Ascension Illinois Housing and Health Alliance the place it is for people like him.

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Emily Dagostino

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Ascension Illinois Foundation

708-829-4167

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