Family Finds Home at Wentworth Commons

One day in September 2017, Lashandra told her two kids Tayvion, 11, and Taniya, 6, that she was treating them to a sleepover at a hotel. The family of three had been living at Lashandra’s father’s place for a few months, and they were exhausted from the cramped quarters and constant need to be on their best behavior. The family packed up a few suitcases and departed, but instead of going to a hotel, Lashandra surprised the kids with their new home: Mercy Housing Lakefront’s Wentworth Commons. The building contains 51 units of supportive housing, with a playground, computer lab, and youth cultural enrichment programs among other services. “Everything was so nice, clean and big,” Tayvion recounts with a shy smile about his first impression of the building. Lashandra had already secretly set up their beds and furniture so their new apartment would feel welcoming from the moment they walked in.

Among the best parts about living in Wentworth Commons for the family is the sense of ownership. Finally, the kids can take what they need out of the fridge and pantry instead of having to ask permission from whoever they were staying with. They no longer feel like a burden. Lashandra started teaching Tayvion how to do the chores, and Taniya asked to help so often that Lashandra finally caved and bought Taniya a little mop; they are eager to keep the place as clean and tidy as when they moved in.

In their previous house, Lashandra didn’t allow the kids out of the house much, especially after her then-boyfriend – her children’s father – was injured in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting of the house next door. Now, Tayvion has friends in the building, adults that will watch out for him, and community rooms where they can play. They also have field trips with resident services staff. On a recent Wentworth Commons field trip, residents went to a branch of the Chicago Public Library for a Bernie’s Book Bank event where each of the kids picked out 12 new books to keep up their summer learning.

Besides focusing on her kids, Lashandra channels her energy towards changing the neighborhood. She knows many of the kids and teachers at the local school, working as a career counselor and sometimes crossing guard. She often checks in with her kids or others’ kids during the school day to see how they are doing. Lashandra has stayed in the Roseland area for most of her life, although not much else around her has been consistent. When she was young Lashandra used to move from house to another, living with relatives or the gang members supporting her mother’s drug addiction. Lashandra is just starting to heal from her mother’s death three years ago, when she was killed by an abusive boyfriend. She still shields her kids from the truth about their grandmother’s death, but she says she is eager to teach them the resilience and situational awareness to rise above the cycle of poverty that consumed her mother.

“Everything is falling back in place for me now,” Lashandra says about her new housing and the stability it brought to her family in the last year. In the long term, she wants to move from her current career counseling job into a role where she can focus on the most at-risk kids. She also hopes to keep adapting life at Wentworth for her family’s needs; she plans to transfer to a three-bedroom apartment so her two kids can have their own privacy as they get older. Tayvion says he wants to be a police officer when he gets older, bringing order to the places where he once couldn’t play outside. Both mother and son understand their community has a long way to go, but they’re committed to making it a better place and a stable home.