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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Pilsen Studio Opens Doors To People Who Are Homeless As Dangerous Cold Hits Chicago

Restaurants Quiote, Zamn Good Food, Lalo’s on Maxwell, Canton Regio will also provide meals during the cold.

Healthy Hood, 2242 S. Damen Ave., is opening its doors to people who are homeless during the cold spell.
Tanya Lozano
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PILSEN— As the city braces for a brutal cold spell, a fitness and dance studio will provide shelter — and meals — to people who are homeless in Pilsen.

Healthy Hood, located in the basement of Lincoln United Methodist Church at 2242 S. Damen Ave., is teaming up with local restaurants and other groups to transform the center into a makeshift warming center starting Tuesday night, said Tanya Lozano, the gym’s founder.

The studio will open its doors to house 50 people who are homeless from 8 p.m. Tuesday until 8 a.m. Thursday, Lozano said. Local restaurants Quiote, Zamn Good Food, Lalo’s on Maxwell and Canton Regio have signed on to provide meals while they wait out the freeze.

Temperatures will dip Tuesday night and stay dangerously low through Thursday, with the possibility of wind chills making it feel like 50 degrees below zero at points, according to the National Weather Service.

Lozano decided to open Healthy Hood’s doors to those in need after her friends DJ King Marie and DJ Chava asked how they could collectively work to help people during the bitter cold, and the idea to transform the studio into a warming center was born.

Lozano then posted a request for donations and volunteers to help staff the warming center on Instagram. Within a few hours, she received $1,500 in donations, offers from neighborhood restaurants who wanted to help and 100 coats donated by Chicago Beyond.

More than 120 people have signed up to help as servers, security and drivers to help bring people to the gym.

Lozano said the studio doesn’t have beds but will use money raised to buy blankets for those taking refuge at the studio.

Rapper Vic Mensa and his nonprofit Save Money Save Life also promoted Healthy Hoods efforts on Instagram, urging his followers to help feed and volunteer at the center.

“As the temperature drops to beneath 30 degrees in the next two days, people will die,” says the rapper, whose real name is Victor Mensah. “Please if you have the resources to, we are accepting sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, food, money.”

During the cold spell, the studio plans to screen films and have live music to make the inconvenience a “good experience,” Lozano said.

Healthy Hood is still in need of hats, gloves, blankets, space heaters and coffee, Lozano said. Individuals looking to volunteer can sign up here.

Tanya Lozano comes from a family known for its work in Pilsen — she is the daughter of pastor Emma Lozano, who has provided sanctuary to immigrants, and is the niece of labor activist and community organizer Rudy Lozano. Pilsen’s library and bilingual alternative school are named for Rudy Lozano, who was murdered in 1983.

Tanya Lozano said her “strong community of young creatives” often rallies for causes they believe in.

“The thought of kids and women — anyone in general with nowhere to go really made us take action,” she said.

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