Rogers Park Community Groups Band Together to Help Neighborhood

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, immigrant advocacy group Protect Rogers Park ran a hotline and response network for residents to report community raids by immigration law enforcement agencies like ICE. 

But when the coronavirus shut down much of the economy in early March, the group retooled its system to help form the Rogers Park Community Response Team. Coordinated by 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden and other community organizations, RPCRT fields calls from residents who needs assistance with food, housing resources, hygienic supplies and more. 

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“There’s a hotline number that people can call, it is staffed 16 hours a day by volunteers. And what we seek to do with that hotline is respond to needs people have in this time — and those can be food, or other supplies. They can be information about where they can get assistance … and we refer them to the right agency,” said Gabe Gonzalez, a founding member of Protect Rogers Park. 

Gonzalez says the hotline has seen a spike in calls near the first of every month — when rent is due for neighborhood residents. 

“When they get thrown out of work, there’s a calculation that’s made, and they can decide to pay rent, or they can decide to eat,” Gonzalez said. “And so what we’ve seen is that many people have decided they can keep a roof over their head … so they pay the rent at first, and then they need help.” 

Right now, Gonzalez says RPCRT is helping disseminate a ton of food every week, as well as hygiene products and thousands of diapers. 

The hotline has also emerged as a tool to fight another side effect of the coronavirus: loneliness and social isolation. 

“There are occasionally calls from people who just want to talk to somebody, people who are shut in, refugees who don’t know anyone here in the United States who landed shortly before COVID started, and we have people provide companionship over the phone,” Gonzalez said. 

RPCRT is funding its operations through donations, and relies on volunteers to staff the hotline and help distribute supplies. 

“Here in Rogers Park we know we’re all in it together. And if we’re gonna beat this thing, that’s the way we’re gonna beat it, not as individuals but as a community,” Gonzalez said. “I am very, very proud of the hundreds of volunteers that we have, the hundreds of people who have made donations in my neighborhood.” 

The group’s hotline number is 773-831-7668. More resources and information can be found on its website.

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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