Hope in a Critical Time

October 2020 View more

Hope’s Front Door in Downers Grove provides emergency assistance to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. This year, as the nonprofit celebrates its 20th anniversary, the need for its services is greater than ever.

Hope’s Front Door often acts as a first responder to area residents facing a financial or medical crisis. When clients first arrive at Hope’s Front Door, many are either underemployed, unemployed, homeless, disabled, or senior citizens in need of support. Depending on their needs, clients receive food and transportation vouchers, help with acquiring prescription medication, and access to vision care and oral health providers.

Once their immediate needs are met, clients are able to take advantage of the nonprofit’s education and self-sufficiency programs. “We help people move out of a crisis-to-crisis existence by providing tools and resources that empower them to make positive, long-lasting changes for themselves and their families,” explains executive director Janell Robinson. Clients can take advantage of financial literacy programs, work with a career counselor, and learn about making healthy lifestyle choices.

COVID’s Impact

Like many nonprofits, COVID-19 has severely impacted the organization. “We’ve had to make some real changes in the way we provide services to maintain social distancing. Now, instead of meeting face-to-face, we talk with clients over the phone and offer onsite distribution for goods and vouchers,” Robinson explains. They also had to adjust to working with fewer volunteers.

Once the $600 unemployment benefit ended, visits to Hope’s Front Door increased dramatically. “Generally we help 5,600 individuals and children throughout DuPage County a year. Based on what we saw during the 2008 recession, we conservatively expect to see a 30 to 35 percent increase within the next 12 to 18 months,” Robinson points out. Once the moratorium on evictions ends and people lose their unemployment benefits, she expects the numbers to rise even higher. “It’s almost a perfect storm. We’re concerned it will be a really challenging fall and winter.”
The increasing number of new clients also concerns Robinson. “We are seeing more and more folks who are new to us becoming financially insecure,” she states. Based on the 2008 recession, Robinson projects they could see up to 40 new households each month. She points out that for some people, it could be 24 months before they truly get back to where they were before COVID. Regardless, Robinson remains hopeful the government will offer more financial assistance to those in need.

“People often feel disconnected and invisible during a financial crisis. It’s disheartening that we can’t meet face-to-face with people, but were able to talk with them on the phone and just listen,” she explains. “Our mission is to help people weather these types of storms, whether it’s due to a person crisis, a recession, or a pandemic. Having a listening ear is just as important as financial and educational assistance.”

Robinson has worked at the Downers Grove nonprofit for the past 18 years.
“I love what I do and I am tremendously proud and honored that folks really trust us to share their story. We must be doing something right if folks feel comfortable telling us what’s going on in their lives. And at the same time they also call and tell us when they’ve been successful because they want us to know they’re doing well. This crisis has impacted everyone, regardless of income or education. If we keep the mindset that we’re in this together as a community, I don’t think it’s beyond us to be able to help those who are struggling as a result of the pandemic.”


Hope’s Front Door will host a virtual Prohibition Gala on October 24. In honor of its 20th anniversary, every dollar raised will be matched by a donor. Information about the event can be found at hopesfrontdoor.org.

Photo courtesy Hope’s Front Door