Weathering the Storm

When his brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago, Eric Morales couldn’t believe it. Burdened with medical debts from a serious back injury that had cost him his job years before, the thought of living without his little brother felt unbearable. For Eric and his family, the cost of losing his brother was high –emotionally and financially. “We had to pay for burial and services,” Eric says. “We were prepared, but we had only so much.” Faced with over $10,000 in funerary expenses, Eric needed help. Family and friends had told him about Spanish Coalition for Housing (SCH) when he lost his job, and, already familiar with our services, he contacted counselor Carmen Landecho to see what SCH could do.

“Life takes its course,” Carmen reflects, “but mourning someone while going through a hardship is devastating.” Unable to work because of his injury, Eric and his mother support themselves on the fixed amount he receives from disability compensation. When Eric came to SCH, faced with all the small bills threatening to build up on his existing debts, Carmen helped him seek assistance with his utilities through the Community and Economic Development Association’s (CEDA) Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP offered a one-time benefit that helped Eric stay afloat. “I feel so grateful that through CEDA’s program we were able to make a huge difference in his life,” Carmen says. “It has brought him some peace and we lifted a heavy burden off of his shoulders by explaining the different programs CEDA had available.” Eric also accessed CEDA’s weatherization program, which helped insulate his house and keep his utility costs down. With the relief he felt from these programs, Eric made it through.

But now, the LIHEAP and weatherization programs have been suspended because of the state of Illinois’ budget. Meanwhile, Eric’s financial hardship has forced him to make difficult choices; Eric and his mother are currently living without water in their home. “I got to sacrifice,” Eric explains, “my mother is 69 years old!” With his mother’s best interests in mind, Eric chose to pay their gas bill first. As costs go up and emergency assistance programs go under, these are the kind of tough decisions that have become familiar for many Chicago residents. Eric is keeping a positive attitude; “I’m living life day to day and one day it’s going to be ok.” From personal experience, Eric knows that emergency utilities assistance is important, and he hopes that the program can continue –“we really need you guys;” he says “without you, a lot of people wouldn’t make it.”

CEDA’s assistance programs have helped over 7,000 of SCH’s clients weather their storms every year –if these services continue to be withheld, it could mean devastating heat and cold for these and other families in need. Please consider coming to any of our three offices to sign the petition to bring back CEDA’s services or contacting one of these local congressmen and congresswomen:

State Representative Luis Arroyo, District 3
(773)637-2000 or
State Representative Edward Acevedo, District 2
State Representative Christian L. Mitchell, District 26
(773)924-1755 or
State Representative Cynthia Soto, District 4
(773) 252-0402
Governor Bruce Rauner
Click HERE to contact the Governor


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