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Hull House Closes Its Doors

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Phyllis Offord hugs a fellow Hull House employee Friday as the 122-year-old organization closed its doors. (CBS)

Phyllis Offord hugs a fellow Hull House employee Friday as the 122-year-old organization closed its doors. (CBS)

Mike Puccinelli Mike Puccinelli
Mike Puccinelli serves as a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — After 122 years of helping Chicagoans in need, Hull House shut its doors for good Friday after running out of money.

“This is a difficult journey,” Phyllis Offord told CBS’s Mike Puccinelli as she packed away belongings from her desk.

Offord has volunteered and worked at Hull House Association for more than half a century.

The closing, staffers say, likely left the mother of American social work turning over in her grave.

Jane Addams was the Nobel Prize-winning founder of the organization. She started it in 1899 to help impoverished immigrants make it in America. There were physical activities, cultural events, social activities and even open-air schools.

That tradition of education continued until Friday at an Uptown Head Start class. Site Director Martha Abarca first became involved with Hull House when she was a preschool client in 1975.

Abarca brushed back tears as she reflected on the closing.

“I can’t express. It’s very sad,” she said.

But what’s most worrisome to Abarca is the fact that it remains unclear as to whether the children in her Head Start class will have a place to go to on Monday. And they’re not alone.

Offord says 55,000 of the 60,000 people who utilize Hull House services will be without those services. She says that will blow a massive hole in the city’s social safety net.

And it’s not just clients who are affected.

In all, more than 320 employees received layoff notices in the last couple of days.

Anna Blocker is now unemployed for the first time in 17 years. She couldn’t stop crying as she thought about the uncertain future she and other Hull House employees now face.

But she and other workers say they are most concerned about the organization’s clients, more than 80 percent of whom live at or below the federal poverty level.

“It’s one less star in the sky,” Hull House Policy Director John Putnam said.

Union leaders say this didn’t have to happen. They say the organization’s board could have brought in a turnaround specialist to prevent the closing.

Board leaders could not be reached for comment.

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