Share this article Tweet about this on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Email this to someone

Alexis Castleberry doesn’t take anything for granted.

A mother of five, she is thankful that she can provide her children with a home in Chatham, plus food, clothes and medical care—the necessities of life that were hard to come by when she and her kids were homeless.

“I still wake up in the morning and I can’t believe this house is mine,” says Castleberry.

Follow one family’s journey from homelessness to hope, thanks to Beacon Therapeutics + the Unity Fund

Tweet this

For two months, she and her family bounced from shelter to shelter, occasionally spending the night in their car. That was before she found Beacon Therapeutic Diagnostic and Treatment Center.

Beacon helped Castleberry overcome homelessness and pave the way toward self-sufficiency. They connected her family with education, mental health and social services that address the complex and interrelated needs of Chicago’s homeless families.

A woman holds a toddler on her lap as they look out a windowAlexis Castleberry holds daughter London, age 2, in their Chatham home. After escaping from domestic violence, the family was homeless for two months until connecting with Beacon Therapeutics, which helped them secure housing.

“We have food on our plates and clothes to wear,” Castleberry says. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Early Intervention

“Families continue to be the fastest-growing homeless population. And one of our goals is to prevent intergenerational homelessness,” explains Susan Reyna-Guerrero, Beacon’s president and CEO.

“We know that homelessness derails a child’s development. So if you can intervene as early as possible by getting them in the right academic program, making sure their health is being addressed, and making sure the parent is parenting them as best they can, hopefully we can make an impact now—so that child won’t be homeless when they become a young adult. That is where a lot of our programming is focused.”

Beacon offers three core programs for homeless families:

  • therapeutic day schools for students with emotional, behavioral and learning needs that exceed local schools’ resources;
  • homeless outreach services;
  • and intensive outpatient mental health programs.

In 2014, Beacon’s programs helped more than 2,500 people in crisis including about 1,100 children, and helped 263 families obtain housing—even after the nonprofit experienced a $1.2 million loss in federal funding.

To help offset that loss, the Trust awarded Beacon a $40,000 grant from the Unity Fund, the annual campaign to help the most vulnerable Chicago residents weather economic downturns and get back on their feet.

Support System

Castleberry and her sons, 14-year-old son Adrian and 8-year-old Calvin, each meet with a therapist from Beacon once a week to treat the anxiety, depression and other symptoms of PTSD they suffer as a result of domestic violence.

“Without counseling and therapy, it would be very hard to live day-to-day life,” Castleberry says. “Sometimes I’m distrustful of people and there are things that have happened in my past that prevent me from sometimes doing the things that I have to do.”

“I can call Beacon whenever I need to talk. Someone is always there to talk to me. If I’m having a problem with my landlord or anything, I can call them.”

Two women seated at a table in conversationDr. Nicola Roache, right, provides therapy and case management services to Castleberry. The mother of five is working to find a job and enroll in community college with support from Beacon Therapeutics—as she says, “They’ve given my family so much to look forward to.”

In addition, Beacon helped Castleberry obtain public aid and subsidized housing. She works with her case manager to develop and achieve life goals. Now that she has housing, food and clothes for her children, she is looking forward to the future.

Next steps? Castleberry is working with Beacon to place her 2-year-old daughter in child care; obtain a part-time job; and enroll in community college to earn her nursing degree.

“I have a support system now—my Beacon family. I don’t know what I would do without them,” she says.

“They’ve given my family so much to look forward to.”


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.