ORGANIZATION | Inducted 1994

Opening its first facility in 1986, Chicago House and Social Service Agency was Chicago’s first grassroots agency to respond to immediate housing needs of persons with HIV disease and AIDS. It established the Midwest’s first “continuum of care” within supportive housing for such persons, accommodating residents ranging from those with an initial diagnosis of HIV to those with terminal AIDS. The group’s first independent living facility opened in the Lakeview neighborhood in February 1986, housing eight residents who required little if any daily living assistance. The board and a cadre of dedicated volunteers, mostly gay and lesbian, were committed to assisting residents until a cure could be found.

As hopes for a quick cure faded, Chicago House moved to professionalize its operations and converted from a hands-on board model to one in which day-to-day operations are handled by a paid, professional staff. Today, Chicago House looks toward the future with a new realization that the tragedy and devastation of HIV disease and AIDS will be with us for some time to come. Chicago House approaches its second decade armed with a long-term plan.

In 1987, as needs grew, Chicago House purchased a house in West Town, where it began offering the Supervised Living level of care–food, medical care, homemaker services, transportation, counseling, and other services. In 1989, after demand for alternatives to hospital and nursing home care became overwhelming, Chicago House began its program of custodial care and hospice services for those in need of 24-hour medical supervision. In effect, Chicago House had established the Midwest’s first “continuum of care” within supportive housing for persons with HIV/AIDS, which accommodated residents from initial diagnosis with HIV through terminal AIDS. In 1992, three living units in a West Town building were acquired to house HIV- infected/impacted families, making Chicago House the first supportive housing provider to offer its services to families with dependent children.

Medical advances, early diagnosis, and greater acceptance of persons living with HIV are felt to have decreased the number of applications for Chicago House’s Independent Living Program, prompting the group to combine its Independent Living and Supervised Living Programs in the West Town facility and to begin serving families in the Lakeview facility. Currently, Chicago House can serve up to 42 persons, including four families, at a time, and it serves 100+ persons per year. Chicago House is currently building a dedicated facility that will open in 1996 to house families. With that opening, Chicago House will be able to serve up to 60 persons, including nine families, at a time and will serve 150+ persons per year.

Throughout its history, Chicago House has been noted for two guiding tenets: flexibility in responding to needs of the affected population, and a high level of quality in service delivery. Both of these are evidenced by the continuum of care Chicago House offers its clients. Now using the Lakeview facility and three additional apartments, Chicago House has also developed the city’s first housing program specifically designed for families in which one or more members are living with AIDS. (Please note: this information has not been updated since the time of the organization’s induction).