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Rogers Park Shelter Operating In 100-Year-Old Auto Garage Gets Federal Funds For Much-Needed Renovation

Rep. Jan Schakowsky secured the federal funds for New Life Interim Shelter to propel the organization's first major renovation in 30 years. "I know they'll put this money to good use," Schakowsky said. "They do so much for the community."

Children and parents stay at Good News Partners in Rogers Park on June 2, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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ROGERS PARK — New Life Interim Housing shelter in Rogers Park is on the cusp of its first major renovation thanks to federal funding after more than 30 years operating out of a converted auto garage.

Shelter leaders announced Wednesday they had secured the funds for a much-needed renovation after receiving $450,000 from the federal government’s new community project funding program.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s office selected New Life’s building effort as one of 10 local projects to receive funding last year under the congressional budgeting measure that revived what was previously known as “earmarks.”

The funding helps New Life Interim meet its $900,000 budget to overhaul the shelter on North Paulina Street in Rogers Park, which officials said has fallen into disrepair. Block Club Chicago first wrote about the organization’s rehab efforts in June.

“I know they’ll put this money to good use,” Schakowsky said. “They do so much for the community. I was thrilled to be able to help them out.”

The renovation will start in four to six weeks, shelter officials said. It will help New Life shelter fix its building while adding amenities and services that not only give families a place to stay, but do so with dignity, shelter leaders said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Darrica, 9, sits on her bunk bed as Melissa Johnson tends to her one-year-old son, Michael, at Good News Partners in Rogers Park on June 2, 2021.

New Life marked its 30th anniversary last year. In 1991, the nonprofit Good News Partners opened New Life shelter in a converted 1920s auto garage on Paulina Street north of Howard Street.

The building hasn’t received many upgrades since then, with all 37 of its beds sharing the one-room building and separated only by translucent plastic barriers. The building does not have air conditioning or many working bathrooms.

New Life began a public fundraising campaign last year, asking neighbors to raise the final amount needed for the renovation. But cost estimates keep rising, keeping the final fundraising goal out of reach, said Kenneth Johnson, interim executive director of Good News Partners.

That’s when the group learned of the congressional funding and applied for the program with Schakowsky’s office. Last year, Congress revived the practice of putting funding for community initiatives into spending bills. Each congressional district received funding last year for 10 projects.

The money was approved by the House of Representatives last year and dispersed recently, officials said. For the full list of projects Schakowsky’s office funded, click here.

“We believe in faith through work,” Johnson said. “We do the work and rely on our faith to make things happen. We’re very excited.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Chicago), left with scarf, poses with supporters of New Life Interim Housing, including Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), right in pink shirt and mask.

RELATED: Rogers Park’s New Life Housing Shelter, Operating For 30 Years Out Of Auto Shop, Seeks Help With Renovation: ‘We’re In Desperate Need’

The renovation will include building a kitchen with an island where residents of the shelter can learn to cook healthy meals for their families. The existing restrooms will be replaced with eight single-stalled, fully accessible bathrooms.

There also will be new electrical and plumbing systems, including air conditioning. The roof will be fixed and the fluorescent lighting removed. The building’s car port will be enclosed to add a management and casework office. A computer space and glass-enclosed play room will also be installed.

The $900,000 construction budget does not include new furniture and other supplies needed to outfit a housing shelter. Good News Partners has launched a fundraising effort to cover furniture and any incidental construction costs.

Any donation throughout April will be matched up to $150,000. For more on the fundraising effort, click here.

Construction is expected to take three to five months, Johnson said.

In anticipation of the work, New Life moved its residents from the former auto garage into a building Good News Partners owns on nearby Jonquil Terrace in the fall.

With the rebuilt shelter, New Life will be an even more important and beneficial community resource for Rogers Park and beyond, Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said.

“The work Good News Partners does, the home you provide, the community you create, is irreplaceable,” Hadden said. “You’ve worked really hard … to make this happen. We couldn’t be more grateful.”

Credit: Good News Partners
Renderings of New Life’s renovated dining room and computer lab.

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