In 1979, Maxine Florell, Jeanette Hupp, and Janet Sullivan began operating a women’s center in Uptown with an aim that differed from many social service agencies of the time—to accept each woman as she was. To embody this value, they implemented a few rules as needed to create a safe, peaceful, and respectful space. In the beginning, that space was a second-story apartment with a handful of regular clients. It would later be named Sarah’s Circle for the cat that spent time with women in the center.
To accommodate the growing need to address homelessness among women, Sarah’s Circle moved in early 1997 to the building that would come to be known at ICA GreenRise. The larger space allowed them to expand in scope as well as capacity, recruiting a case manager and providing “educational programming, culinary arts training, computer services, and case management assistance for every woman who walked through the doors.”
By 2011, Sarah’s Circle was operating an interim housing program that provides basic needs for participants while helping them to find safe, permanent housing and jobs. In 2013, the organization completed construction of a new building comprising 10 units of permanent supportive housing just half a block north of ICA GreenRise, where they continue to operate interim housing services.
In order to better serve their clients, Sarah's Circle is now developing a new 35,000 square foot building on Sheridan at Leland, a block south of the ICA GreenRise, that will add 38 units of permanent supportive housing for women with histories of chronic homelessness. Once completed, Sarah’s Circle will be relocating out of the space in ICA GreenRise that has anchored them for more than 20 years.
As a neighborhood hub, ICA GreenRise supports sustainability in all its forms. Its doors remain open to organizations and groups looking to nourish the Uptown community. It’s home base for our local programs, which in 2019 have included our Annual Uptown Garden Walk, an electoral candidate forum, a women’s networking mixer, and a volunteer-made film about the endangered piping plovers that nested on Uptown’s coast this summer. As we seek to embody justice, to build a better society from the ground up, we must begin with how we use the ground on which we stand, upon which our physical foundation rests.
Our work depends on a groundswell of individual supporters. If you, like the many people featured in this issue, have been inspired by our work, we ask that you make a contribution.