Kane’s Story: Respite Center Regular Looks To Brighter Future
Opening its Respite Center a year ago, Niles Township has filled a community need by providing daytime space for those who are housing insecure. That’s an important mission in itself, but perhaps not the ultimate goal.
We always hoped that our Respite Center would allow our visitors to regroup and find support leading to secure housing and stable work. In some cases, we’ve seen the Respite Center help people achieve such success.
Kane, now 29, lived in Prospect Heights, but his life snowballed when he lost his grandmother. “She was the only woman I would go to to talk about any of my problems,” he said. “When she passed, it was like I didn’t have anyone to talk to anymore.”
Kane said his grandmother was like a mother to him, the person who raised him. When she died, there suddenly became an expectation that Kane would fill his grandmother’s shoes in the family, a stressful burden that he did not want to take on.
He admits he made a series of bad decisions and stopped caring about a lot of things. He gave up his grandmother’s house and lived with a brother and then an aunt in housing arrangements that did not last long.
After becoming homeless, Kane learned of the Respite Center housed in St. Paul Lutheran Church in Skokie. He didn’t visit there at first, he said, because he felt uncertain he needed this kind of help.
Cold and wanting food and a shower, he finally made his way to the center last winter. Kane struck up a rapport with other people and became close enough to staff and volunteers to talk about his situation.
“If someone’s willing to ask, I know they’ll listen,” Kane said. “People here asked. They’re interested in trying to understand why you are here. You don’t have to say everything — you can give them just a quick rundown — but it has helped.”
When Kane first came to the Respite Center, he was staying with a friend and his parents in Des Plaines — but only sporadically. Sometimes, he wasn’t able to make it back to them so he stayed up all night or slept outside. He also lived in Lincolnwood for a short time, but he lost a job as a bus driver and so housing became a formidable struggle.
One night he stayed overnight at a nearby fitness center because he simply didn’t have anywhere else to sleep.
Kane said the Respite Center has allowed him to interact with new people, helping to build his confidence, and Niles Township’s social workers have been a positive resource as well.
He eventually returned to Prospect Heights wanting to see his grandmother’s house again. It was an emotional trip for him considering he lived more than 20 years of his life there.
But it was also a fateful trip after he was put in touch with the property landlord. The landlord bought him food and gave Kane a place to sleep. He paid him for random work and eventually provided a townhouse unit where he could live.
“I help with the demolishing of the unit because he wanted to redo everything and make it new,” Kane said. Since then, he added another job, serving as a lifeguard at a Quincy Park pool near where he used to live with his grandmother.
Kane is still a welcome presence at the Respite Center even if he doesn’t come quite as often these days. He has cooked in the Respite Center kitchen and worked in the Niles Township community gardens whenever volunteers have been needed.
He was scheduled to move again to an upgraded unit this month and possibly take on more work. His visits to the Respite Center may have to be even less frequent as he gets busier, he said.
But he knows the Respite Center has made a difference in his life.
Kane recounted that he recently found a plant stuck under a tree on the side of the road and immediately brought it to the Niles Township garden for planting. It is now thriving.
“I stopped by the garden just the other week to see how my plant was doing,” he said. “It’s alive and looks good. That made me feel happy just because I know I saved that plant.“