Friday, September 4, 2020

‘It’s been hard. I’m not going to lie’—Teen mom's life looking up

     Kitty Perez’s first name is a nickname. Her birth name is “Katsumi,” and learning that, a person might be forgiven — I hope — for peering closer at the eyes above the mask and asking if she’s Japanese.
     She’s not, she says, laughing. Her father named her for a Japanese porn star.
     “I was his first kid,” she explains. “So everything was kinda weird.”
     We are sitting in the brightly painted main room of the Crib, the Night Ministry’s youth shelter that moved earlier this year from a church basement in Wrigleyville to larger quarters at 1735 N. Ashland Ave. in West Town. The Night Ministry invited me to tour the new space and, so I didn’t visit an empty room, arranged for me to talk with former residents. Perez stood out. 

    “Right now, I’m sort of in the middle of transition over to an apartment,” says Perez, 19. “I’m also a mother. I have an almost 2-year-old daughter. She’ll be 2 in November.”
     And how has that been?
     “It’s been hard. I’m not going to lie. My ... well, I don’t call him my ‘partner’ at all. I call him my ‘sperm donor.’ Because he left as soon as I told him. He bounced, completely, to a different state. It’s been hard, especially during the pandemic. I couldn’t find no diapers anywhere. I couldn’t find no wipes. Everyone just stocked up on everything; I couldn’t find anything.”

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  1. Thanks for writing about the Night Ministry from time to time. I nipped over to their site and sent a small donation and signed up for the e-newsletter.

    1. Wasn't it on Addison, between Halsted and Sheffield? And didn't the neighbors object until it got gentrified out of Wrigleyville. Long before night baseball, that stretch was part of what was then called West Lakeview, which was a different world than East Lakeview, formerly known as New Town.

      The neighborhood was blue-collar white and Hispanic. After Cub games in the 70s, you had a few beers at the nearby watering holes, but you got the hell out of the neighborhood by suppertime. There was no nightlife. Gang shootouts and drive-bys happened a block from the bleacher gate.

      Even earlier, in the late Sixties, a rogue cop killed a teen-ager at Clark and Addison, across from the Cubby Bear, because they were both dating the same female. Too many witnesses...he served a long prison stretch.

      Around 1980, Ray's Bleachers became Murphy's, apartment buildings were rehabbed, and the carnival began by the mid-Eighties. Now Wrigleyville is Disneyfied, thanks to the Cubs.

      It's not all that surprising that the Night Ministry was pushed out, but to a longtime Cub fan and former resident who knows the history of the neighborhood, it's still somewhat ironic.

    2. With all due respect, Grizz, you don't know what you're talking about. Having lived there 40 years ago doesn't make you an expert. There weren't many neighbors to complain—being a block from Wrigley, they had bigger fish to fry—the church loved having them, and nobody pushed them out. The space was too small and they decided to move.

    3. You are right, Mr. S--because I wasn't living there forty years ago. I was still only a frequent visitor. Finally moved to Wrigleyville in the mid-Eighties. Wasn't exactly gentrified out in the Nineties--just grew weary of having to arrange my schedule around that of the Cubs. Traffic grew worse, and there were more and more parking restrictions. Returned to Evanston, and then left Chicago, almost thirty years ago.

      I thought I remembered you writing about them having to leave, but I must have been mistaken. I stand corrected. My apologies.

    4. Accepted, and I'm sorry if I was snappish. Maybe you were thinking of the trouble they had with their new neighborhood. I wrote about it last year.

    5. Yes, that was the one I was thinking of...from 3/15/19. It was the new neighborhood that had concerns about the Night Ministry, not Wrigleyville. Should have done my homework first. It would have been easy enough to do.

    6. No worries. Everyone is wrong about stuff and makes mistakes. Accepting that is part of being a human being and not Donald Trump. I used to think the Kinks song "Lola" was about a girl.

    7. Whenever I hear "Lola" I think about a late friend of mine, who went to Georgetown with a former POTUS. My buddy had the same experience in D.C. in the late Sixties. I heard every last detail.

  2. A lesson in courage.
    This brave woman’s journey is our America: hardship, despair, struggle, perseverance and hope.

  3. I love the Night Ministry. I recently donated to an organization here in Austin for folks living on the streets- Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center. Thank you for sharing Kitty's story. As a person who worked in social services since my teen years I learned early on that every person has a story and no one chooses to be down and out, mentally ill, to have PTSD, or to be addicted to substances that destroy lives. A society is only as healthy as it's sickest members so I say support, don't punish. I hope Kitty and her family stay on a good path.


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