On Nov. 2, 1998 Lynda Schueler began working at Tri-Village PADS (now Housing Forward) as manager of Volunteer Services. She joined six other employees working in two rooms of a church basement in Maywood. Much of the work in those days was done by a small, hardy band of volunteers and a determined board of trustees (most often the same people) concerned about a growing population experiencing homelessness in the area. Nothing has been the same around here ever since.
From its start in 1992, the agency has been constantly evolving — through a rebranding and merger with Prevail in 2015, to its recent selection as the lead agency and one of four Walk-In Centers for Entry Point, a partnership with eight other homeless provider agencies offering services throughout suburban Cook County. Just about the only thing that has not changed over the years is an unwavering mission to bring stability to those experiencing a housing crisis.
When Lynda started, there were fewer than 10 local congregations involved and now there are more than 40 providing both space, financial support, and teams of volunteers to support our mission. The original 13 units of housing has expanded to house 343 people, along with the almost 2,000 people assisted across all agency programs last year. The seven employees in 1998 is now nearly 50, with more than 75 percent in program, supportive service and case management roles.
Under her direction, Housing Forward changed its primary focus from providing emergency shelter, to ending homelessness, by putting people into permanent housing and working with other stakeholders to find innovative, structural solutions to widen the safety net. That impact continues to grow through new partnerships with District 97 and District 200 to assess the needs of families, and through interventions like the Flexible Rental Assistance Program, funded by the village of Oak Park in partnership with the Oak Park Homelessness Coalition to divert households from becoming homeless or by assisting them to end their homelessness.
“Building relationships is at the forefront of the work we’re doing,” according to Lynda. The root causes of homelessness are not lessening, so she has set her sights on system-wide change.
We are fortunate to have a dedicated advocate who keeps searching for solutions around the complicated issue of homelessness and has the compassion, vision and drive to rally our community. Housing Forward continues to grow and strengthen under her leadership. We are grateful to Lynda, her family and her circle of supporters, for making a true difference in the lives of clients and volunteers alike over these past two decades, as well as looking forward to the future.
First Vice President
Housing Forward Board of Directors