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Non-profit is Putting Edgewater To Work

Mon, Aug 20, 2012

Methodist Minister Tom Robb, former director of Care for Real in Edgewater

Care for Real, a non-profit group formed over 40 years ago in the Edgewater neighborhood to help tenants fight corrupt landlords, is stepping up to help people find jobs. A collaboration of various religious and secular groups, Care for Real has been a force for good in Chicago, providing food and clothing for the poor as well as responding to other needs in the community.

Tom Robb, a Methodist minister, was the director of this organization for more than seven years. Doug Fraser, former chief of staff for Alderman Mary Ann Smith (48th ward), will be Care for Real’s new executive director.

While political and media pundits say that the economy is improving, Tom Robb vehemently disagrees, noting the rise in the usage of food/clothing banks with 600 food pantries in the Chicago-area.

“Real human beings are wandering the streets,” he observed.

Robb noted that this non-profit helps about 400 people every month with non-perishable foods. He also gets 250 bags of clothes each week.

As to government help, he laughed, saying that its help in providing food was minimal: less than 6,000 pounds out of the 90,000 pounds that his group has gathered from citizens in the community.
“The community keeps it going!” he exclaimed.

This is “guerrilla welfare” as he puts it.

With the jobs initiative starting last November, Robb said, “Putting Edgewater to work is a community effort.” Already 250 of its candidates are in vocational settings; 50 out of them have been placed into full or part-time jobs, and 150 people have been given day labor jobs.

Robb pointed out that 40-60 year-olds have begun to exceed the 60+ year-olds in job searching. He gets 100-150 applications every month from people looking for jobs.

As to foreclosures in Edgewater, Robb shook his head, saying it was mind-blowing.
Could the community effort for jobs spread?

“I think every neighborhood can get involved. They need engagement,” Robb said.

The jobs range from moving furniture to building flower gardens, “CPAs to ditch diggers.”
On a recent weekday evening, an unemployed, African-American woman came to a Care for Real meeting looking for a job.

Ruth preferred that her last name be omitted. Ruth was a banker for over 10 years and found out about the employment center at Care for Real as she walked by the front door. A single mother, she is trying to stay in the same field.

“I like this program,” she said. “Our voices need to be heard. This place is very helpful.”
As to prospective employers, Ruth had her own thoughts.

“They are preventing people with bad credit from getting jobs. Another thing that they do is go behind your back and talk to past employers.”

She is amongst a plethora of people hunting for jobs in the U.S. Since January 2012, 141,000 more jobs have been created in Illinois, with 4,700 additional jobs being created in June alone, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). The unemployment rate in the state rose only 0.1 percent, to 8.7 percent. Excluding government job cuts, Illinois added a net of approximately 800 jobs in the month of June. Private sector job growth resulted from gains in Leisure and Hospitality, Professional and Business Services, and Manufacturing.

Manufacturing growth was particularly robust in 2012, compared with the prior year. In June of this year, the number of unemployed individuals rose by 7,900 (1.4 percent) to 572,200, the first increase in unemployment after nine months of gains. Total unemployment has declined 180,600 (24 percent) since January 2010, when the state’s unemployment rate peaked at 11.4 percent. The unemployment rate reflects those who are out of work and seeking employ-ment. A person who runs out of benefits, or is ineligible, still is represented in the unemployment rate, if he or she is still looking for work.

Media pundits might laud the rate going down, but they should speak to the people that still constitute 8.7 percent in Illinois, let alone the millions in America as a whole.
And the forgotten ones – the homeless – aren’t even mentioned.
Media pundits, walk the streets.

Andrew Miller, StreetWise Contributor

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