Empowering Young Women Seeking Asylum

What We Do

Bethany House of Hospitality offers housing and support services to young immigrant women as they journey to independence.

Our History:

On February 24, 2017 a group of 20 women religious from 12 different religious communities/congregations met to discuss the possibility of opening a house of hospitality. From the staff reps of The Young Center and Viator House (a similar house for young men), the group learned of the tremendous need for such a facility to give unaccompanied young women immigrants, who are aging out of youth detention, an alternative to adult detention when they turn 18 years old.

The Need:

When Bethany House (BHH) began, some 60,000 unaccompanied children had come across the border in the previous year and 2,300 of them were held in children’s (detention) centers in Illinois.  More than 65 young women were in danger of “aging out” of those centers without anywhere to go.  In the years since BHH began, the immigration crisis has taken various turns.  The current situation is unpredictable as unaccompanied minors again are crossing the southern borders and children’s centers are once again beginning to be filled.  Unless these women, as they turn 18 have a place to go, they will be transferred to adult detention. Bethany House offers them an alternative option.  Over the course of the past three years, BHH has received women from programs in Texas, New York, and, of course, Chicago.  A surge of residents may well occur as immigration reform is attempted in 2021.

Map shows countries of origin of residents and staff of Bethany House

Who?

Since its opening on October 2017, Bethany House has welcomed 55 women and 11 children. They come from 17 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South and Central America. The average length of stay is 10 months. Most arrived in this country as unaccompanied children seeking asylum. They have ‘aged out’ of the children’s detention centers. Most take ESL, GED or high school classes. Several women at Bethany House have been helped to attend local colleges.

What?

  • Bethany House of Hospitality offers housing and support services to young immigrant women as they journey to independence, including
    • Coordination with immigration attorneys, health care providers and other community based programs to ensure seamless access to services which she will need for the duration of her open-ended stay with us.
    • Accompaniment as she navigates the complexity of immigration processes which can take years until conclusion
    • Referrals to ESL, High School Equivalency (GED) or college level programs
    • Encouragement and support as she seeks meaningful employment
    • Instruction and guidance in the skills essential for independent living
    • Help with her social integration into U.S. culture
    • Support as she develops leadership within the BHH household so she may become a contributing member to U.S. society
    • Resources so she may grow in her faith tradition

Where?

The house is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. We invite you to join us on a virtual tour:

How?

Bethany House of Hospitality is now a joint effort of more than 33 Illinois women religious involved in leadership, financial support and as personnel. Funding through donations from individuals and religious congregations provides a budget of $480,000 annually to support a 24 -hour staff and support services for these young women with a goal for independence and stable citizenship.

The breadth of our work is made possible through partnership with a wide range of agencies, including Viator House of Hospitality, The Young Center, NIJC (National Immigrant Justice Center), CRLN Sanctuary group, universities, and a diverse group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith groups.

Why?

Compassion. Respect for life and human dignity. Recognition that we are all deeply connected. Learning the stories of our residents explains why Bethany House exists. You can read some of those stories in the articles cited below.