WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger) was founded in 1985, when a group of community leaders learned that female-headed families were a rapidly increasing segment of the homeless population in northwest Chicago suburbs and the number one cause of their plight was domestic violence.
Domestic Violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness among women and children, yet it remains an elusive and underreported social problem. A landmark survey found that one in four women has been physically or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner at some point in her life. Estimates of the number of women in the United States who suffer domestic abuse each year range from .5 million to 1.5 million or higher. Domestic violence claims an American life every six hours. In Chicago’s northwest suburban 12-township service area, it is estimated that 100,000 women are affected by domestic violence.
For women who are escaping domestic violence and have few resources to support their children, surviving on their own in the Chicago suburbs can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Northwest Cook County’s rent, transportation and child-care costs remain among the highest in the metropolitan area. The lack of immediate shelter options as well as safe, affordable longer-term housing may force a domestic violence victim to stay with her abuser rather than living in her car or worse yet facing homelessness.
Unfortunately, women aren’t the only victims. The National Center for Children in Poverty estimated in 2002 that anywhere between 3.3 million and 10 million children are witnesses to domestic violence each year. Research demonstrated that exposure to violence can have serious negative effects on children’s development such as post-traumatic stress disorder, even if they only observed the abuse.
The mission of WINGS is to provide a continuum of integrated services in an effort to end domestic violence and homelessness, one family at a time. The agency now has 18 transitional homes, 8 permanent supportive housing units, and the Safe House emergency domestic violence shelter. For nearly three decades, WINGS has provided nearly 500,000 nights of shelter and services to thousands of women and dependent children who needed a fresh start.
Each woman enters WINGS with a difference set of needs. Program staff ensures that those needs are met and that she is provided with services, education, and job training needed to improve her quality of life, assure her safety, regain her dignity, and rebuild her feelings of self-worth.
WINGS comprehensive support services include life skills development, therapeutic counseling, financial counseling, children and family services, career services, volunteer mentoring, and graduate follow-up. Every time WINGS helps an abused and disadvantaged women, her children benefit from the advances she achieves. By doing so WINGS aims to rebuild lives one family at a time.