PILSEN — As dangerous, sub-zero temperatures hit Chicago Tuesday night, a Pilsen fitness studio opened its doors to nearly 70 people looking for refuge from the blistering cold.
Healthy Hood, located in the basement of Lincoln United Methodist Church at 2242 S. Damen Ave., originally planned to open as a makeshift shelter to help as many as 50 people who were homeless during the brutal 36-hour cold spell. But when dozens more showed up for help, owner Taynya Lozano said she knew she couldn’t turn them away.
“We are just figuring it out as we go because it’s too cold to say, ‘No,’” Lozano said.
Lozano opened up the studio at 8 p.m. Tuesday and will keep the space open until 8 a.m. Thursday for people who are homeless and looking for a warm place to stay. Temperatures have felt as cold as 50 degrees below zero during the deep freeze.
Thanks to help local restaurants — including Quiote, Zamn Good Food, Lalo’s on Maxwell and Canton Regio — those seeking shelter in the studio will get a few warm meals to eat, too.
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.
Since opening their doors Tuesday night, Lozano has seen an outpouring of support from neighbors who have donated their time — at least 160 people have stopped by to volunteer as servers, security and drivers to bring people to the shelter. Others have donated supplies, too.
“We knew it would get support because of how much it was circulated through social media, but we didn’t know we would get this much physical support,” Lozano said.
Because the studio doesn’t have beds, they have been using money raised to buy blankets for those taking refuge at the studio.
And although there are more people taking refugee than was originally expected, Lozano said they have more than enough food to make sure everyone is well fed.
“Someone just brought in 20 Little Caesars pizzas,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “It just keeps coming.”
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 the studio will take in anyone who needs help regardless of immigration status. To deny anyone without documentation would be an “injustice,” she said.
“We aren’t turning anyone away,” she said.
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