Mercy Home for Boys & Girls is a Catholic organization answering the Gospel call to minister to children and families in need. Located in Chicago, Mercy Home has been a solution for kids in crisis since 1887. Through its residential, AfterCare, and mentoring programs, Mercy Home provides safety, therapy, education, and life-changing opportunities for more than 900 young people and family members every year. It helps children heal from the traumas of abuse, neglect, poverty, housing instability, and community violence while giving them the tools they need to build brighter futures.
At the core of Mercy Home’s services for children are full-time living spaces, also known as youth residential programs. Mercy Home never closes – children live there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In order to tailor the living experience to the needs of kids as closely as possible, Mercy Home operates 14 specialized, therapeutic residential programs. Each one of these living spaces provides the safety, structure, and support that children between the ages of 11 – 24 need to grow and thrive.
Mercy Home is among today’s leaders in the field of trauma-informed care. Mercy Home addresses trauma using an adapted therapeutic model called the “Mercy Model”, an approach that has been developed through lessons learned in 132 years of service to kids and families. The Mercy Model has been refined through partnerships with the Trauma Center in Boston, the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, and the Stars Training Academy in Long Beach.
In addition to therapy, Mercy Home helps prepare youth for the future through its Education and Career Resources department, formerly known as The Academy. Many kids arrive at Mercy Home several grade levels behind their peers. Mercy Home residents attend more than 50 schools across Chicago, but when they return in the evenings, they have access to one-on-one tutoring and after-school programming. Youth also attend executive functions classes at Mercy Home that help them build skills in organization, decision making, goal setting, and time management.
Once youth have transitioned back into their communities, Mercy Home continues to support them through its AfterCare program. AfterCare invites all former residents and their families with membership into a program that offers ongoing support, encouragement, and resources. It ensures that those who have transitioned from residential programs can rely on Mercy Home to help them succeed far into the future. The AfterCare program serves more than 350 youth and families and provides academic and employment assistance, career counseling, financial literacy, and therapeutic support.
Through its Friends First Mentoring program, Mercy Home is able to expand its impact into many different communities. Friends First connects children across the city in need of a positive role model with well-trained volunteer mentors. Friends First mentors meet mentees in their communities and venture out to enjoy different activities throughout the city. Friends First also offers a site-based mentoring program where mentors and mentees meet at Mercy Home to talk and participate in structured activities as well.
Most recently, Mercy Home launched partnerships with multiple companies in Chicago to create a workplace-based mentoring program. This program matches mentees with employees of these companies and focuses on teaching leadership, empowerment, and skill development in decision making.
With extensive experience serving youth impacted by trauma, Mercy Home also expands its reach throughout Chicagoland with its Mercy Model in Schools program. Mercy Model in Schools provides educators with a greater understanding of the impact trauma has on youth, and equips them with the tools to handle crises, mitigate traumatic triggers, and appropriately respond to poor behavior. With more instructional time in the classroom and less time dedicated to behavior management, educators can focus on academic programming and improve students’ academic achievements. Mercy Home offers these trainings on-site at schools, at Mercy Home, and through webinars.
Mercy Home’s comprehensive model of care was not created overnight, however. The programs, therapeutic models, and facilities that exist today are the result of dedicated leaders who continually propelled the Home forward. Through the generosity of supporters who believe in the mission, the Home has experienced tremendous growth over its 132-year history.
Mercy Home was founded in 1887 as a solution to the growing number of homeless boys who were migrating to Chicago in hopes of finding work. Though they sought opportunity, what many boys found was destitution and violence.
Chicago’s first Archbishop, Patrick Feehan, convened a group of priests and pressed them for a solution to this crisis. Rooms were rented to house the homeless boys, and eventually a permanent space was purchased just west of downtown Chicago, where Mercy Home still stands today. The facility was incorporated as a distinct organization within the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.
In its centennial year in 1987, Mercy Home expanded by opening the Walsh Girls Campus on Chicago’s South Side. In 2012, a vacant apartment building was donated to Mercy Home and was renovated to provide safe, affordable, transitional housing to AfterCare members and their families.
Over the course of its history, Mercy Home has helped break the cycle of abuse for more than 30,000 kids. One girl who recently found success at Mercy Home was Asia.
For Asia, schoolwork was never the problem; she was always a decent student. But Asia suffered abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. She moved in with her grandmother, but the two often found themselves at odds.
“It was overwhelming,” Asia said. “I felt like I was too young to have this all happen to me. Too young to learn all this stuff about life. I was just 11-years-old.”
The friction at home started to affect Asia at school. “I started getting in trouble,” she said. “I talked back and was disrespectful. I also got bullied a lot, and my grades started slipping.”
Asia’s grandmother searched for options for Asia, but couldn’t find the right fit. Then, she discovered Mercy Home. At first, Asia struggled with the rules and structured environment at Mercy Home. But once she experienced the network of care and support, her outlook started to change.
To Asia, the thing that helped the most was talking to her therapist. “She helped me through my problems,” Asia said. “She didn’t sugarcoat anything. She encouraged me to talk to people and find a way to make things better.”
Academic accomplishments soon followed for Asia as well, and the C’s and D’s she used to receive in school turned into A’s and B’s. Today, she uses her positive energy and outgoing personality to mentor others.
“Where I was before and where I am now are two completely different universes,” Asia said. “Mercy Home is here for a reason, and that reason is to make a difference. They’ve made a tremendous impact on my life.”
For more information, please visit www.mercyhome.org, or contact Tricia Rooney, J.D., Philanthropic Advisor at email@example.com or (312) 738-9528.