Women and children living in Clara’s Place, a 13-unit building in Englewood, have been forced to use multiple blankets and boiling water to stay warm in the area, where temperatures have dropped to around freezing this week.
Watch a news report about the story here:
Clara Kirk, the center’s founder and director, said she suspected the bill for $21,026.74 could cause service disruptions. However, she added that the center’s funds are “dried up. I don’t have the money.” The shelter is run exclusively by volunteers.
Kirk, who also runs another women’s shelter, acknowledged that grants for the shelter are difficult to acquire since she’s struggled with affording payroll taxes through her organization, the West Englewood United Organization, along with building code violations from the city.
People’s Gas spokeswoman Jennifer Block said their gas company has been working with Kirk since April to resolve the situation-stemming for four unpaid accounts.
But debt and lack of funds is hampering that process.
“Unfortunately one of the accounts had to be disconnected due to the extreme arrearage and lack of available funding,” said Block. Fortunately, as Kirk’s problems have become known, she has received offers from people who want to send checks to help.
“This is the biggest challenge I ever have faced,” she said. The retired teacher’s assistant says she needs the center to stay open so the 42 women and children living there have a place to stay.
“Englewood is a community that doesn’t have anything,” Kirk said. “We don’t have big stores and we don’t have big companies and we don’t have places where people could go and get a sandwich. We don’t have anything like that.”
According to Darlene Morman (pictured), who lived at the shelter with her 8-year-old niece before moving into a two-bedroom apartment in June, the shelter is the “best place she could be right now.”