Jane Addams Hull House closing doors

January 27, 2012 4:18:43 AM PST
Lizzie Harrington came to the Hull House Association as a 17-year-old foster child. She was served by the charity and after graduating from college returned as an employee to serve others.

"If it wasn't for Jane Adams Hull House being a part of my life I don't know if I would have had the direction that has gotten me where I'm at today," Harrington said.

Harrington and 300 of the charity's employees are packing up after 122 years of providing everything from foster care to head start programs to job training. The Hull House Association can no longer afford to stay open.

"The board has worked for the past two years analyzing every opportunity to save and trim costs, increase fundraising," said Steve Saunders, Hull House Association board chairman. "But we were trapped in a very bad economy."

Hull House has provided child care, job and literacy training and other services to 60,000 people each year in the Chicago area.

"Yea, the economy is bad, the fundraising is bad, but other agencies have functioned through that," said Hull House employee Naomi Samuels.

Employees blame mismanagement and neglect for the charity's demise. When the doors close Friday, many employees say they are walking out without severance pay, health insurance or owed vacation time.

"The tragedy is some people are so low on the pay scale they are the ones who find themselves needing the services we used to provide," Samuels said.

While other social service agencies will take in Hull House clients, not all will find a new home.

What would Hull House founder Jane Addams say about all this?

"She would say, 'Come on now, how could you let this happen?'" said Hull House employee Phylis Offord.

The Hull House Association was born out of social reformer Jane Addams' mission to help the poor and immigrants. In the 1960s, the charity separated from the Hull House on South Halsted.

"Jane Addams was famous for saying this is not space just for bricks and mortar, it's actually about a spirit of solidarity along with the human race," said Lisa Lee, Hull House Museum director. "That work needs to continue on."