Joe Franzese of the Wounded Warrior Project talks about challenges for returning veterans. (Photo/Mike Reilley)
By Jon Doe
Post-9/11 veterans have more resources available than past generations of veterans, but transitioning back into civilian life has been difficult because of delayed benefits and high unemployment, according to a Wounded Warrior Project employment specialist.
The overwhelming amount of soldiers returning from combat — 2.5 million throughout the past 13 years — has created a backlog in the Veterans Affairs system and delayed medical and education benefits. A 2013 report showed that 245,000 veterans wait a year or more for the VA assistance they are owed for their service.
“A lot of ways, being in the military is very easy because you know exactly what your focus is,” said Joe Franzese, a third-generation Marine who now works as an employment specialist for the Wounded Warrior Project. “Once you get into the swing of things, it’s a very easy way of life. You have one job and that’s it. But, coming back home and just not having that whole structure is just challenging itself.”
After being turned away from several homeless shelters for not fitting their criteria, 20-year-old Alex Samuelson sought out one more place where he hoped to temporarily call home, San Jose Obrero Mission.
San Jose Obrero is a Latino male homeless shelter in East Pilsen that finally gave Alex a place to lay his head and opportunities to rebuild his life.
“Everybody is equal here,” said Samuelson. “We’re all in the same boat. Just because you speak one language or both languages or just because you’re one color it doesn’t matter here. We’re all brothers here.”
San Jose Obrero began as an organization by Friar David Staszak in 1981 as a way to fight homelessness in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
Interactive Map: For locations of San jose Obrero missions in Chicago, visit this map
Father Jim Collins, an associate Jesuit priest at St. Procopius Parish, finds integration of two churches “hard.” (Photo by Ewa Lyczewska)
“It is hard to integrate two churches … and nobody is successful at that in five years,” said Father Jim Collins, an associate Jesuit priest at St. Procopius Parish.
Located in Pilsen, a Lower West Side, Latino-dominated Chicago neighborhood, St. Procopius Parish consists of its title name church and Holy Trinity Croatian. St. Procopius Parish inherited a “dying” Holy Trinity Croatian in 2004, according to Collins.
Podcast: Father Jim discusses church integration issues. The song Lamb of God is featured throughout the podcast, first in English, then Croatian, Spanish, and once again in English.
St. Procopius Parish offers seven Sunday Masses: three at Holy Trinity Croatian and four at St. Procopius. Holy Trinity celebrates Masses in Croatian, English and Spanish while St. Procopius has three in Spanish and one in English.
Dr. Jorge Partida, psychologist. (photo by Rima Thompson)
These are challenging times for Mexican-American immigrant communities, said Dr. Jorge Partida, psychologist and author of the book “The Promise of the Fifth Sun.” The impact of the economic downturn has devastated some Americans, but even more so in the Latino community.
Hopes of achieving the American dream are dwindling in the reality of immense job loss and home foreclosures, due to the sub-prime lending crisis. Disheartened and defeated by the uncertainty of the future, many have retreated to Mexico. Yet, despite the despair, inspiring stories of hope, resilience and survival are rising from the suffering.
As first-time slam poet Robby Q steps center stage onto the dimly lit arena, it isn’t difficult to notice that he has his reservations.
“I’m nervous big time,” he mutters into the microphone.
But with some quick crowd reassurance, Robby Q proceeds as he looks onto a rather multi-faceted audience who anxiously awaits the delivery of his debut performance. Among them sits Marc Smith, who may just be the biggest critic of them all.
Smith is the founder of the slam poetry movement, which ultimately helped him earn his the nickname, “The Slam Papi.” He runs the popular slam at the Green Mill a jazz club in the North Side Uptown neighborhood, in a three-hour show every Sunday night.
Celebrations begin after decisions are announced. (Photo by Phillip Shilling)
Audio Slideshow: Follow the journey of these Chicago college hopefuls.
By Audrey Plank, Elizabeth Schuetz and Phillip Shilling
Despite 40 mph winds whistling outside, students from more than 80 Chicago-area high schools gathered on Oct. 26 to attend the Fourth annual Chicago Scholars Onsite Admissions Event at the UIC Forum.
While the morning was dark, dreary, and rainy, the atmosphere inside the UIC Forum was anything but. Amid interviews and introductions were cheers of joy and excitement as scholars gained admission and scholarships to national universities on the spot.