DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Depaul USA expands housing access for DePaul, City Colleges of Chicago homeless students

Depaul USA expands housing access for DePaul, City Colleges of Chicago homeless students

Cecilia House
Cecilia House is a seven-apartment, 20-bed home owned by Depaul USA and reserved for DePaul and City College of Chicago students experiencing homelessness. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

Depaul USA, a national homeless services nonprofit based in Chicago, affiliated with Depaul International Group and part of the Vincentian Family, is expanding its support for homeless students attending DePaul University and City Colleges of Chicago by opening a seven-apartment, 20-bed home in Chicago's Budlong Woods neighborhood.

The home purchase was made possible thanks to a generous donation from philanthropists John and Emily Chen, who named it Cecilia House after Emily's mother, Cecilia, who long supported education. The first students moved into the home in early August, and the dedication for the home occurred Nov. 8.

"We can't thank John and Emily enough for their generous support," says Charles W. Levesque, president and executive director of Depaul USA. "It's a truly beautiful, renovated home that wouldn't be possible without so many folks. These 20 beds — along with the six we offer in Ukrainian Village — are a big step forward for supporting housing insecure and homeless students at DePaul and City Colleges of Chicago."

Depaul USA began working with DePaul in 2014 and since then has helped dozens of Blue Demon students who were experiencing housing insecurity. The new house is part of Depaul USA's Dax Program, which is named after the town in France where St. Vincent de Paul attended school and lived with a host family.

Aldo Alan Navarrete
House Manager Aldo Alan Navarrete in his apartment at Cecilia House. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

"I couldn't be prouder to be part of a community that recognizes the dignity of every human being and works to make sure that every individual has the opportunity to achieve their highest potential," says DePaul President Robert L. Manuel. "The opportunity to secure safe housing during a student's college experience can often be the difference between whether they finish their degree or not. I'm so appreciative of the work Depaul USA and the Dax Program have done over the years to support DePaul students, and I look forward to our continued work together."

DePaul's affiliation with Depaul USA and the Dax Program is an extension of the university's mission to serve the public good and give people of all backgrounds an opportunity to earn a high-quality college education. The university recently launched the Basic Needs Hub to give students in need access to items such as food, toiletries, clothing, towels and bedsheets. The university also supports students with the Roselie Rendu Student Pantry and The Career Closet, which is stocked with new or gently worn business professional clothing students may need for their jobs, interviews or internships.

In addition to providing a place to live, the Dax Program also gives students textbook and food support, access to cleaning and homecare supplies, transportation assistance, opportunities to apply for specific scholarships, and connections to the Chicago Furniture Bank, Care for Friends, Good Send, All Chicago Student Emergency Fund and more.

The organization has previously rented or owned property in Pilsen and near Midway Airport. In addition to the new property in Budlong Woods, they currently rent a house in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood, which offers six DePaul students who are experiencing homelessness a place to live while attending college.

Since the Dax Program was established, 70 students have been served. Thirty-three of the 70 have graduated from DePaul, with 94% overall having remained in school or graduated with a four-year degree.

One is Aldo Alan Navarrete, a School of Music graduate student in performance. He's the current house manager for the Cecilia House after serving as house manager of the Ukrainian Village property last summer. In his role, he oversees the house and mentors the undergraduate students who live there.

"Cecilia House provides a safe space for students while we focus on our studies," Navarrete says. "I am so grateful for all the individuals who support this program. I've seen a great deal of change and a renewed sense of hope in every student, including myself, who has lived in Cecilia House since its opening this fall."

Students who are interested in learning more about Chicago's Dax Program are asked to contact DePaul's Dean of Students office.

Russell Dorn is a manager of news and integrated content in University Marketing and Communications.