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Woman faces a window as she holds a child

Helping a Shelter Change the Lives of Women and Their Children

In two years, a new state-of-the-art transportation hub will open in Springfield, Illinois, housing the Amtrak station, Sangamon Mass Transit District bus transfer and Greyhound bus station. The city touts it will alleviate congestion, ease connections, and bring more people to visit and live in downtown Springfield.

But for the nonprofit women’s shelter Contact Ministries across the street from the transportation center, security has become a huge concern.

“The increase in traffic, both foot and vehicle was seen immediately upon the groundbreaking,” says Cindy Drum, Contact Ministries' executive director. “The security became an instant concern when the homeless population of the city began gravitating more toward our immediate area seeking places to sleep at night. Being a shelter for women and children, this needed to be addressed.”

With a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the organization installed new cameras and lighting to the exterior of the building to help ensure the safety of the residents inside.

One of the residents, 34-year-old Felicia,* ended up living in her car with her three small children.

“When my husband was incarcerated, we lost our only source of income,” Felicia says. “I moved my children in with my family but when that environment became unsafe, we began jumping from hotel to hotel until the only shelter left was my car.”  

Fortunately, Felicia arrived at Contact Ministries, an emergency shelter for women and their children in Sangamon County, open 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., seven days a week 365 days a year.

The BCBSIL grant was also used to purchase food to help feed the residents. In 2023, there were 403 people served, 90 of those were children age 17 and under. The shelter provided 211,314 meals and 72,010 snacks. 

After staying at the Springfield emergency shelter a few nights, Felicia and her children moved to Contact Ministries’ transitional shelter.

The six-month, long-term shelter offers women with children a safe and secure environment, where their lives begin to transform through required life-skills classes such as parenting, budgeting, nutrition and employment. Contact Ministries also provides weekly personalized case management sessions and supportive services to provide needed resources such as replacing birth certificates and Social Security cards, LINK (food stamps), Medicaid, rapid rehousing, Section 8 housing and employment. 

After Felicia moved into her own apartment, she returned to Contact Ministries and thanked the executive director and shelter staff. 

“Without Contact Ministries, my children and I would still be living in our car,” Felicia says. “Contact Ministries saved my family.” 

In 2023, the grant also helped the organization hire a mental health professional to help residents identify and cope with behavioral issues in themselves and their children. 

“The mental health professional is proving to be a life altering addition,” Drum says. “Residents like Mikayla, a Springfield native, are now able to deal with their crisis in real time with a professional. This has helped residents to completely change the course of their future and the future of their children.”

Mikayla* ended up living on the streets with her two school-aged children after having been taken advantage of financially. Although Mikayla had stayed at Contact Ministries before, when she visited again in 2023, the mental health counselor took Mikayla under her wing and began working with her weekly.  

The counselor helped Mikayla identify the need for healthy boundaries and provided her with positive reinforcement. This encouragement that was lacking in Mikayla’s upbringing now propelled her. She completed the transitional program at Contact Ministries, secured a job, and found a place to live with her children. 

*Names have been changed for privacy.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association