Wake Up: You Don’t Need to Make Money! (if you live at the HOPE House)

A Reflection by Thomas Cook, Hope House Resident

If you spend more than 30 minutes in your car driving somewhere and you have the radio turned on, you will probably hear the song ‘Stressed Out’ by twenty one pilots.  It’s a song about the current millennial angst of going through the transition from childhood to adulthood.  The singer longs to ‘turn back time, to the good old days’, ‘when our momma sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out’ (I know you’re singing along as you read this haha).  The singer longs for the days when he and friends used to play pretend and dream and build rocket ships, but now people are ‘laughing at our face, saying, ‘Wake up, you need to make money!’

Before I continue talking about the song, I need a disclaimer.  The HOPE House we live in is a beautiful thing for many reasons.  First and foremost, it supports the Port Ministries, which in turn has helped tens of thousands of people on the underserved South Side of Chicago in its 30 year history.  Secondly, it is a community of like minded people who are choosing to share life, faith, and service with one another.  Third, the rent is $250/month.  It is this third aspect of the beauty of the HOPE House that I will be focusing on in this article.  It is not because the other two aren’t just as important (if not more important), but because it goes with the main point I am trying to make.  Ok, back to the song and my point…

‘Wake up, you need to make money!’  The crowd saying this phrase in the song are, of course, right in the sense that, yes, we all need to make money.  It is the agreed upon currency we use in our society and no one can live without it.  But what’s debatable is how much money one needs to make in order to thrive in our society.  It seems to me that for most single and married young adults, their biggest monthly expense is rent (or a mortgage).  So most–if not all–single young adults and married couples need to ‘make money’ in order to pay their biggest monthly expense, which is rent.  

(FYI: The median one bedroom rent price in the city of Chicago is $1,600 (9th highest in the U.S. in 2015: https://www.zumper.com/blog/2015/03/chicago-rent-prices-by-neighborhood-february-2015/). If you do a little math, that comes to $19,200 a year a person pays in rent (if they pay the median monthly average in Chicago).  If a person makes $10/hour and works full time, their yearly salary is $19,200 (and that’s before taxes). I think my next blog post will probably be about the ridiculous price of rent in our country…)

It also seems to me that many–though certainly not all–single and married young adults, deep down in their souls would ultimately rather being doing something other than working the job they are currently at; and this is a major source of being ‘stressed out’ (even if it is not recognized by the person).  Not that they don’t enjoy their job some or most of the time, and not that they aren’t good at their job, or that they don’t like the people they work with.  But if you were to ask most of these people, ‘Is your job fulfilling your deepest desires and dreams for your life?  Do you feel like your job fulfills your ultimate purpose as a person?’  Are you currently doing what you are absolutely passionate about?  Do you feel like your job is truly making a positive difference in the lives of people in our world?  Do you feel like your job is your ‘personal legend’ (feel me Alchemist fans)?’, I think most would answer ‘No, not really’ and then say some variation of ‘It’s just a job, man; it pays the rent’.

In my opinion, this is not a good situation.  So we have a ton of people who, in order to pay rent, are working jobs they would ultimately rather not be doing and this is leading them to be ‘stressed out’ because, again, they’re doing something they aren’t really passionate about because they have to pay rent.  It’s a vicious cycle for those who chose to live it and seems to only lead to a person being more and more ‘stressed out’.

Well, what if you could live somewhere in Chicago and pay very, very cheap rent, say $250/month?  Well you can and the place is called the HOPE House and it’s in the lovely Back of the Yards neighborhood!  The reality is, if you choose to live in the HOPE House, you really don’t need to make that much money.This would mean a person would not have to make as much money, and would therefore be less ‘stressed out’, because they would not have to work as much at a job that is ultimately not fulfilling their ultimate purpose.  The cheap rent of the HOPE House means they could perhaps even leave that job they are not passionate about and seek out more meaningful work for themselves (even if it is part-time, because again, it’s only $250/month and one doesn’t need a full-time paycheck to pay that amount per month).  They could worry less about working and paying bills and have more time to discern what their ultimate purpose is in life (personal legend) and spend more time pursuing that.  They would have more time to do other fulfilling things as well: like spending time building a better relationship with their significant other, family, and friends; volunteering at the Port Ministries and making a difference in the lives of people in our community; reading the literary classics and being inspired; getting in shape and exercising; going to the Lakefront and being refreshed; going to a Cubs game at magnificient Wrigley Field(!); taking classes and furthering their education; taking time to prepare and eat healthy meals, ‘build a rocket ship…dream of outer space’; ________________ (you fill in the blank according to your passions), etc.

So if you are sick of hearing in your life those voices from the song saying, ‘Wake up, you need to make money!’, come live with us at the HOPE House.  If you do, you will be the one ‘laughing in their face’ saying, ‘No actually I don’t!  The cheap rent I pay here allows me to not be stressed out about working a job that ultimately doesn’t fulfill me just so I can pay rent.’  So come join us!!  Leave the world of paying crazy high rent and working a less than ‘personal legend’ job just to be able to pay rent.  We can’t promise you a momma who will sing you to sleep (that would be a little weird), but we can promise you’ll be less ‘stressed out’‘ 😉



CommUNITY: The endless discussion of bringing people together.

A Reflection by Hope House Resident, Molly Gabaldo

Community is a buzzword in my vocabulary. Overused, perhaps to the point of withering its meaning. Whether referring to creating community, engaging community, the global community, the community of Chicago as a whole, the Back of the Yards community, or the community of the Port Ministries, or even smaller, the HOPE house community (are you annoyed yet?), it gets old.

This building of ‘community’ is not always as easy as it may seem. Moving to the Port I made a poor and unexperienced assumption that this magical and reverenced ‘community’ would matriculate in its own making by the simple act of our being here, presenting ourselves to the neighborhood as if we are gifts to be known and used. I quickly realized that to engage the community, one must be engaging; expecting relationships to be only as strong as the effort poured in by our own feeble attempts for connectivity.

“[Neighbor is] not he whom I find in my path, but rather he in whose path I place myself, he whom I approach and actively seek.” Gustavo Gutierrez

I cannot take credit for actively seeking Rosa, she sought me; putting herself in my path…literally. I was taking some minor medical supplies to a distribution area in our neighborhood when Rosa, an elderly Mexican woman, ecstatically called me to her door. She was seeking the treasures I held in my box. Rosa, speaking only Spanish, and me, fumbling around my very poor, very broken, nervous Spanish, communicated something beyond the trash turned treasure in my cardboard box. We laughed at our feeble attempt to communicate with words and reverted to listening to one another’s hearts. She kissed my cheek, told me to come back so she could cook me chicken (I think), and we parted. I came back to Rosa’s a few weeks later, realizing that she had probably ran out of the supplies I had brought her. I was grateful that her caretaker that day was bilingual so that Rosa and I could share our care for one another in words. She invited me in and we drank coffee, laughed, learned about one another, and shared in a piece of each other’s lives. I’m still waiting for that chicken, Rosa.

Time and consistency are the greatest gifts to seekers of community. They allow for trust to be built, rapport to be established, and affirmations to be made. But they are not enough, as Gustavo Gutierrez so eloquently insists, our own efforts are vital to the success and vibrancy of the communities in which we reside. I am grateful for Rosa’s insistence to step in my path and pull me into her own sense of ‘community’.

So buzzword or not, forgive me for my audacity to say that ‘community’ cannot be overused, only over-looked. We must strive to be so engaged in our own ‘hoods’ that there are no strangers, that not only are we co-existing we are in fact intertwined in the lives of those sharing our physical space because to God, we are also sharing their heart space, their mind space, their place of service to our world.  

Bellen and the Boiler

Last week, a group of ten students and one faculty member from Bellen College joined us at the Port Ministries to be a part of our Service Immersion program. They planned on staying in our Service Immersion group rooms in the Family Resource Center, and serving with our daily Port programs.

Well, what they planned on was not what they got!

Our boiler broke down last week. And Bellen froze. Not only did they freeze, but they were also forced to readjust to a totally different plan because the Port had to close down almost all programing.

Although the group was scheduled to visit area ministry sites each morning, their afternoons were supposed to be full aiding the Port’s programs.

Feverishly searching for alternatives, Tom called around and found out that Su Casa could use their help. And so, the group gladly transported their care and elbow grease over to Su Casa prepping meals at the soup kitchen and completing much needed projects like sorting toys and clothing.

We also found a way to thaw the group out by inviting them to sleep in the Hope House, the only Port building with heat. Some even slept on our floors.

To say the least, this Bellen College group has redefined what it means to be “troopers.” Just take a look at all that they accomplished despite the challenging hardships they faced!


We were moved by these eleven women and their perseverance and dedication to serving our neighbors. Our community will never forget what we learned from these women about generosity and resilience on that cold, notorious January week of Bellen and the boiler.