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Inside the life of a homeless Chicago student in the age of the coronavirus: Fear of failing — or not surviving
Mariah Bingham has lived in 13 different places since she was born.
For the first three months, it was a bench by Douglas Park on the West Side. Then her older sister’s apartment in Homan Square. Three different places in Englewood. One over in Gresham. And she’s likely to be on the move again in the coming months.
The 11-year-old is one of 17,000 homeless students at Chicago Public Schools. She’s going into the home stretch of fifth grade having already gone to seven schools, never with a stable learning environment.
Now the coronavirus has taken over, and Mariah feels she might take a step back academically. That’s not to mention the health concerns: Mariah and her mother are both asthmatic. Her mom is diabetic, Mariah, pre-diabetic.
“I am terrified of the coronavirus,” Mariah says, “because I love my life.”
Mariah was making progress in school, focusing on her favorite subject, math, and had developed a close-knit group of friends. But when schools closed, Mariah was left without access to a computer or reliable internet.
“Honestly, I think I’m going to fall behind, definitely,” she said. “I’m kind of scared because if I don’t learn all that I need … it’s gonna be hard for me to get to sixth grade.”
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Mariah was sent home with a homework packet when classes stopped nearly a month ago. She finished it three days later and has been bored waiting for more work. CPS is set to start widespread remote learning today, and her class has geared up with an online program that teaches various subjects. But Mariah has had trouble following along on her tiny cell phone screen.
“How am I supposed to learn if I can’t even do anything?” she said.
Like most CPS kids experiencing homelessness, Mariah doesn’t live in a shelter or a car or under an expressway. Her and her mother, Margaret, are currently living in Mariah’s late uncle’s house. They moved there in January, a few months after her uncle was fatally shot on the West Side.
Their neighborhood, Gresham, has the highest number of coronavirus cases of any community in Illinois.
More news you need
- Illinois health officials today said another 74 people have died from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s death toll to 794. Pritzker said he is “cautiously optimistic” the state could be “bending the curve.”
- The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $377 billion to support small businesses nationwide, but several Chicago businesses still feel adrift. Manny Ramos talked to some local business owners who said they “can’t wait another week” for federal help.
- The union representing 7,600 Chicago hotel workers called on the industry to continue paying laid-off members today. They say the cutoff of paychecks is costing the city’s neighborhoods $5 million in lost earnings per week.
- It’s becoming clear this coronavirus-induced recession will leave much more slowly than it arrived. David Roeder lays out six ways the pandemic will hit Chicago’s economy hard, from gloomiest to most hopeful.
- Researchers at University of Chicago Medicine have launched a clinical trial to study if blood plasma from people who’ve recovered from the coronavirus can be used to help those still suffering from the virus. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, the University of Chicago wants to hear from you.
- Music is often the soundtrack of important events in people’s lives — especially for South Siders. Amid the pandemic, an archival series helps you reminisce by pairing vintage footage from the South Side Home Movie Project’s archives with sets from Chicago DJs. Here’s how to tune in on Thursdays at 7 p.m.
A bright one
Mike Bancroft and Anne Kostroski of Sauce and Bread Kitchen in Edgewater were “blindsided and dumbfounded” by the coronavirus outbreak in Illinois that closed all dine-in restaurants and non-essential businesses.
The duo behind the restaurant said the coronavirus-related shutdowns “tanked” the wholesale side of their business. But they also saw a great need in their neighborhood, so they kept going.
They started by cooking free meals for restaurant workers and artists who found themselves out of work under the state’s stay-at-home order.
“We understand what living check to check is like and how something as simple as preparing a meal can lead to stress,” Bancroft said. “Helping out with that is important to us because we can empathize.”
Then friends, neighbors and regulars started donating money so Kostroski and Bancroft could make even more free meals. Within three weeks, the couple has given hundreds of soups, chili, pizzas and other healthy meals to people in need.
From the press box
Right after the Bulls announced the hiring of Arturas Karnisovas to run basketball operations, the team fired general manager Gar Forman today. With John Paxson now relegated to an advisor role, the days of GarPax are officially over.
Your daily question ☕
How did you make Easter or Passover work this year while following the stay-at-home order and social-distancing guidelines?
Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Friday, we asked you to tell us about the most uplifting thing you’ve heard, seen or done in your neighborhood. Here’s what one reader said...
“My next door neighbor texted me, saying that her 6-year-old daughter wanted me to look out my bedroom window to see her artwork. On the window was a beautiful rainbow of hearts. It was just what I needed to cheer me up that day! I could see the little girl inside, watching for my reaction. I mimed ‘I love it, so beautiful!’ I received her proud smile in return.” — Karen Zoellick
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