Chicago – For many families living paycheck to paycheck, there’s the possibility of being an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets. Toyota Motor Sales, USA, through its “Toyota Walk In My Boots” community outreach project, stepped in to help area homeless families by providing new insulated winter boots and socks to the residents of The Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Lodge in Chicago.
Having adequate clothing to fight the cold elements of a Chicago winter can be challenging for low-income families. While many programs offer winter coat giveaways, a person’s feet are often left vulnerable to freezing temperatures and even frostbite. The project, in its second year in Chicago, offers comfort in a time of need as temperatures dropped to extreme lows this past couple of weeks. Toyota also gave a $15,000 donation to The Salvation Army Chicago Metropolitan Division on Saturday, Feb. 14, enabling them to continue to provide refuge for children and families in times of crisis.
The Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Lodge is a haven for women and men with children, along with married couples with children suddenly homeless because of eviction, disasters such as a fire or flood, loss of utilities, domestic violence, being stranded while traveling or other crises. As an interim housing program, the Lodge provides shelter for as many as 60 families each night. The average stay is 63 days, but some stay longer, depending on the time needed to locate permanent living arrangements.
“The Salvation Army works each and every day to meet people’s most critical needs, such as food, shelter and crisis assistance, including providing warm clothes. But we cannot do it alone,” said Lt. Colonel Charles H. Smith, divisional commander, The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division. “We are truly blessed to have support from good corporate citizens like Toyota to assist us in meeting the most critical needs of the people in our communities. This generous donation not only provides help for our Lodge residents during the winter season, it also provides the gift of hope.”
An estimated 138,575 Chicagoans were homeless in the course of the 2013-14 school year – up 19.4 percent compared to a year earlier, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Of that number, people living in families make up 50.5 percent of Chicago’s homeless population, including about 49,000 children. City officials have identified poverty as the leading cause of homelessness among families with children; followed by lack of affordable housing and unemployment.
Several TSA Evangeline Booth Lodge residents commented that walking is their main form of transportation. They walk to the bus stop, to work and other places they need to go on a daily basis. Their children also walk to school or wait at the bus stop in the cold. One parent said, “I am very thankful to Toyota because we now have really good boots and socks to keep our feet warm. And, I really can’t believe that someone thought about us on Valentine’s Day, too.”
Toyota also treated residents of the Lodge to a buffet luncheon catered by Fanfares Catering of Chicago. Residents expressed their gratitude to receive a “down-home” cooked meal — something they have not had in quite some time.
“At Toyota, we want to build more than just great cars and trucks,” said Kevin Fletcher, general manager of the Toyota Chicago Region. “While we unveiled great new products during the Chicago Auto Show earlier this week, nothing compares to being able to help people in the community. We want the work that is being done at The Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Lodge to continue for years to come. And, we hope that our donation of winter boots and socks will help to enrich lives…one step at a time.”