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Women’s Shelter Without Heat Amid Financial Struggles

Clara Kirk (CBS)

Clara Kirk (CBS)

Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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(CBS) — Just imagine having no heat. Some Chicago women and their children are shivering through this cold weather without gas in their homes.

It’s been out for more than a week. Making matters worse: They live in a shelter where they are supposed to be safe and comfortable.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on what led to this cold crisis.

A wall covered with photos and awards is evidence of better times for the woman’s shelter Clara Kirk has run for 26 years. Times got real hard last week when the gas was turned off.

“I don’t have the funds,” Kirk says.

She owes people’s gas $21,000 for the 13 apartments behind the front office.

Darlene Mormon lives in one of them with her 8-year-old niece.

“I walk around with my coat on in the daytime or sweaters, but at night I put blankets around me,” she says.

Mormon pays for the cooking gas, so she also turns on the stove for warmth — even though she knows it’s unsafe.

She is one of 19 women who live in the unheated apartments, along with 23 children.

Dominick Jackson also uses the oven to keep warm and worries her nephew could get sick.

Kirk depends on fundraisers to pay the bills. She doesn’t qualify for grants because of a past debt to the IRS. Peoples Gas has worked with Kirk in the past and is willing to work with her again — if she can come up with payment plan.

“They have been good to me. I can say that. I just haven’t had the money to pay them. If I had it I would pay them,” she says.

Kirk has no intentions of closing her doors, because the women have nowhere to go.

“Through the grace of God maybe someone will make some donations to help out,” Mormon says, sobbing. “It’s going to be hard with no heat.”