Melissa Stafford

June 30, 2017
Julia Weegar
A Portrait of Homelessness in Chicago | Franciscan Outreach

Melissa Stafford

Melissa has been homeless since 2016.

“My goals are to get a job and housing.” “I would like to go through the Chicago Culinary Kitchen 14-week program to get my food handlers license.” – Melissa Stafford

Melissa is originally from Mississippi. She grew up with seven brothers.

Married and divorced, Melissa has three children and two grandchildren.

Because of an abusive relationship, she fled from Mississippi to Chicago to live with relatives.

In 2016, Melissa was unemployed and could no longer live with family.

With no place to live, she found out about Franciscan Outreach’s shelter on Chicago’s West Side.

At Franciscan Outreach, Melissa is working on securing stability in her life. She has a safe, warm bed each night, three meals a day, 24-hour shelter access, weekly meetings with her case manager, access to support groups, employment assistance and part-time volunteer work experience.

Melissa meets with her case manager every week. “He helps me all the time,” she says. “I’m on the housing waiting list. He helped me to get an interview for housekeeping job at a Chicago hotel.”

Through part-time volunteer work at the shelter, Melissa is able to gain skills as a desk clerk answering phones, as a laundry assistant, and in the kitchen preparing meals for guests.

“I love to cook. Sometimes I make breakfast for the ladies. I’ve made homemade biscuits and gravy,” she says.

Melissa and other guests have regular access to Franciscan Outreach partners that offer medical and mental health specialized support.

“On Monday’s, I meet with the Heartland Health Outreach nurse practitioner. On Tuesday’s, I get medical assistance for my asthma from Rush. And, on Wednesday’s, I meet with a counselor from Thresholds,” says Melissa.

Melissa takes advantage of the support group meetings too, including Steps to Empower Women (STEW), Critical Thinking, and Financial Literacy.

“I love it here. People are friendly. I’m the happiest homeless person there is,” says Melissa.


Melissa Stafford is a part of the Franciscan Outreach Mobile Gallery – A Portrait of Homelessness in Chicago

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