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Akeeta Murphy faced a dire domino effect.

A death in her family had required some unexpected time off work. These absences led to her losing her job. And without a paycheck, the family could not pay rent, and lost their apartment. “It was a really dark chapter of my life,” says the South Shore resident and single mother of three.

“I was looking for any type of assistance because I was in need of so much.”

Helping Southwest Chicago PADS provide housing, job services + stability for families to thrive #UnityFund2017

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Murphy found that assistance at Southwest Chicago PADS. The agency helped Murphy pay for a security deposit on a new apartment. It also connected her with another agency, which supplied her with furniture as well as clothing for her children.

That assistance was enough for Murphy to re-stabilize her life and the lives of her kids. Once housing was secured, she was then able to get work. With a source of income, she could begin to rebuild their security.

A year later, “things are so much better.” Murphy now works as a home aide for people with disabilities and as a cosmetologist. “I have an apartment. It’s furnished. I’m working. My children are happy. I’m optimistic moving forward.”

Second Chances

“Our goal is always permanent housing placement,” says Karyn Perkins, executive director of Southwest Chicago PADS.

Over the past five years, the organization has seen its annual clientele grow to more than 2,000 individuals and families.

Six nights a week, anyone in need of a shower, a hot meal, clothing or simply a place to escape the streets for a few hours can find it here.

But the agency’s main aim is to find long-term housing for those who need it. That’s where housing specialist Maurice Morales comes in.

Thanks to a grant from Unity Fund, the Trust’s annual campaign to help the most vulnerable residents in metropolitan Chicago, Southwest Chicago PADS was able to hire Morales on a full-time basis last year.

Murphy stands by a window looking outA death in the family started a downward spiral that led to Akeeta Murphy and her three children losing their home. With support from Southwest Chicago PADS, Murphy secured a new apartment, and began to re-stabilize their lives.

“We’ve placed 135 homeless or housing-insecure individuals into permanent housing since hiring him,” Perkins says. “That number is triple what we were able to do in previous years.”

“A lot of our clients’ situations are dire emergencies,” Morales says. “They need housing almost yesterday.” That’s why, instead of relying solely on the City of Chicago’s central referral system for housing placements, he also establishes relationships with local property management companies. If a client has a barrier to housing, such as a past eviction, Morales advocates with that housing provider on the client’s behalf.

“People are open to giving second chances,” Morales says.

“I had experienced so many ‘nos’ and ‘I can’t help yous’ with so many different agencies. But when I came to PADS, it was like night and day.”

While Morales focuses on finding housing for clients, two additional staff members provide case management services. They assist with job searches, make referrals to volunteer legal teams who can help with sealing or expungement of criminal records, connect clients to medical care and do anything else they can to help clients work toward wellness and self-sufficiency.

Now that Morales is on board to address housing needs, these staff members have been freed up to assist approximately 700 clients each year—200 more than they had previously been able to handle.

A Fresh Start

For her part, Murphy is making the most of her second chance. An aspiring entrepreneur, she hopes to open a beauty and wellness spa one day, as well as to send all of her daughters—and perhaps herself—to college. Without Southwest Chicago PADS’ support, she says, she couldn’t even imagine such a future.

“I had experienced so many ‘nos’ and ‘I can’t help yous’ with so many different agencies. But when I came to PADS, it was like night and day. Their entire process was smooth,” she says. “Now I’m in a really great place.”


Since 2008, Unity Fund has created meaningful impact in the lives of thousands of Chicago residents. Through the generosity of donors, Unity has not only addressed some of the most challenging issues facing our region—hunger, homelessness and community health—but it has empowered the organizations that make our communities strong. Become a part of Unity Fund today.