Mothers struggling with substance abuse now have access to a safe home where they can get top-flight care and counseling as they recover.
The new women’s home, called St. Josephine Bakhita Recovery Home, is a new initiative from Circle Urban Ministries, a 47-year-old organization serving Chicago’s West Side from their 1-acre campus at Washington and Central in the South Austin community.
The campus is also home to Circle Urban Ministries’ Catalyst K-8 school, and children are able to attend the school while they live with their mothers at the Recovery Home, which has room to house 12 moms and 36 children as they complete a year-long program.
Women in the program receive counseling from Maryville and, once recovered, will participate in job training and mentorship in key life skills including financial savings, credit repair and homeownership responsibilities.
“A major message of our ministry is ‘Tell yourself the truth,’” said James Borishade, CEO and executive director of Circle Urban Ministries, who grew up in the Jeffrey Manor neighborhood on the Southeast Side and whose Nigerian-born parents instilled this value in him.
“You want to give people the freedom to live their own lives, as opposed to trying to run others’ lives,” Borishade said. And, as he tells his four adult children, “You also have to be able to speak and hear the truth in love. It makes for authentic love, joy and care.”
The St. Josephine Bakhita Recovery Home, which embodies these values, opened in January 2021 thanks to an $800,000 loan Rush University Medical Center made to the Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF). The CCLF, in turn, lent the money at a lower-than-market interest rate to Circle Urban Ministries.
“Because Rush partnered with CCLF and us, you now have 12 mothers who, each year, will receive life-changing substance abuse recovery,” Borishade said. “On top of that, those mothers will be able to create generational wealth and contribute to the pipeline of success.”
As the first group of women work to complete the St. Josephine Bakhita Recovery Home program early next year, Circle Urban Ministries is looking to the future. They hope to raise $300,000 to build transitional apartments where the women and their children can stay while getting help to become homeowners.
“We want all of the resources, everything you need to be successful, on our campus,” said Borishade, who is well versed in rapid organizational growth.
Borishade, who joined Circle Urban Ministries after the death of its founder, activist and author Glen Kehrein, has built a reputation for overseeing tremendous growth in early education, family development programs and professional organizations. Prior to joining Circle Urban Ministries, he served as the only Black CEO in the zip-line industry and led his company through skyrocketing 3,900% growth.
As he thinks about what’s next for Circle Urban Ministries, Borishade is grateful to have a dedicated partner in Rush.
“Rush is really good at standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us,” Borishade said. “It has a ripple effect, like dropping a pebble deeply enough to cause a ripple.”
Rush played a key role in Circle’s COVID-19 vaccination success, getting shots in arms of more than 3,000 people in the hard-hit 60644 ZIP code in Austin.
And Borishade expects Rush to continue its partnership as an investor when Circle Urban Ministries starts their initiative to build or rehab single-family housing on the West Side. Already, Circle has built or rehabbed more than 500 West Side housing units. This ongoing community development puts more property on the tax rolls and, as a result, helps fund public education.
In addition, they turned the historic Siena High School into a community center offering healthcare, a performing arts center, a basketball program and after-school tutoring programs.
“We don’t expect to see all of what we’re trying to do in our lifetime,” Borishade said. “And we’re OK with that. You don’t fix a multi-generational problem in one generation. You train the next generation of leaders. You have to teach people in the community what being a good neighbor and a good neighborhood look like.
“We want the community to help and run itself,” he said.
CCLF has partnered with Rush on several affordable housing-focused projects, which can improve community health in several ways, said Tricia Johnson, PhD, associate chairperson and professor, Department of Health Systems Management in the College of Health Sciences at Rush University.
“Better housing greatly reduces mental stress and thus the conditions exacerbated by stress,” she said. “Affordable housing frees up money for other necessary items, such as food and medicine, and improved housing also reduces illnesses from lead poisoning, asthma, accidents and the infectious diseases driven by crowded housing.”