UPTOWN — After years of delays, Sarah’s Circle, an organization that serves women who are experiencing homelessness, is getting a new building to call its own.
Construction is set to begin as soon as May on the project at 4654 N. Sheridan Rd., which will create 38 units of permanent affordable housing for women experiencing chronic homelessness. Additionally, the building will provide new space for the organizations’ 50-bed interim housing program.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said Kathy Ragnar, Executive Director of Sarah’s Circle. “There is an incredible shortage of affordable housing. This building will help strengthen the operation of our interim housing program.”
Ragnar said crews are hoping to break ground on the new building as early as May and construction is slated to take about 18 months, meaning the doors will ideally open at the new facility in 2020.
Ragnar said the interim housing program is about more than just offering a “hot [meal] and a cot.” Sarah’s Circle is a holistic program that focuses on supporting women. In addition to a bed, women are offered case management support, behavioral health resources, a computer lab and personal storage space.
They are also entered into Chicago’s Coordinated Entry System (CES). The system helps to identify the Chicago’s most vulnerable individuals and place them into affordable or free housing programs throughout the city.
Initially, Sarah’s Circle had applied for a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), but instead they were able to secure a $14 million donation from a national foundation that prefers to remain anonymous.
The existing building at the corner, known as the Leland and Sheridan Building, was built in 1914 and designed by Perry and Thomas, according to Preservation Chicago. Due to “decades of disinvestment,” many of the original details, including terra cotta Chicago-style windows and a clay-tile roof, have been lost.
The building will be torn down to accommodate the new Sarah’s Circle, but some of the original terra cotta features will be preserved and used in the new building.
Ward Miller, President of Preservation Chicago, said initially the new design did not incorporate enough of the original building materials from the original building.
But after seeing the most up to date renderings, he thinks things have much improved. Still, he wants to stay in touch with the Sarah’s Circle team to make sure everything that can be saved is preserved.
“This is very much in the spirit of what we were initially requesting of the architect and developer to encourage preservation of the facade of the building,” he said.
Ragnar said it is estimated that single women make up more than 25 percent of the homeless population in Chicago. Expanding operations for Sarah’s Circle will help serve that community.
“This is a very underserved population,” she said. “On any given night in Chicago there are over 2,000 women who are homeless”
Sarah’s Circle hopes to discuss plans for the new building further at their annual Winter Walk, which kicks off this Sunday Truman College. Learn more about the event here.