Our Story

Creating a pathway out of poverty since 1991

Origins

Cara was founded in 1991 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Tom Owens, who had traveled extensively contributing to global projects aimed at helping people living in poverty. Upon returning home, Tom realized there was work to be done in his own backyard and soon dedicated himself to reducing poverty in Chicago by connecting quality jobs with the people who needed them. In its early days, Cara’s office was Tom’s car as he traveled from shelter to shelter preparing and coaching people for interviews and referring them to open positions in firms where he had business connections. More than 25 years later, Cara has evolved into a best-in-class job training and placement provider for people living in homelessness and poverty and a vehicle for true life transformation.


Results

Since 1991, we have placed more than 5,800 individuals into more than 8,780 quality jobs at one-year, same-firm retention rates of 70% or better for permanent placements, catalyzing the same number of families to stop the transfer of poverty from one generation to the next. In addition, Cara boasts two social enterprises, including one in exterior maintenance and the other in contract staffing, that achieve a double bottom line – more than $4.5 million in revenue annually and 500+ transitional jobs per year. During our first 25 years, we created a pathway out of poverty for motivated men and women through quality employment. During the next 25 years, let’s pave the road.

Commitment

“Cara” is the Gaelic word for friend and we are a community of people willing to lend a hand to those who need just that. When Cara accepts a participant, we make them a serious promise: If they keep showing up and working hard, they will find a job. Thanks to our dedicated supporters, Cara provides everything tangible they need to succeed, from an interview suit and a public transit card to job-search techniques and hard-skills training. Together, we help motivated people get back on their feet so they can start building a better life for themselves and their families, and a better city for us all.

Impact

Today, Kimberly is a strong and confident woman. She loves her job with the Chicago Transit Authority as a Customer Service Assistant and looks to the future with confidence and pride. But for years, Kimberly was lost. She stood on street corners selling her body to get money for drugs. Hear her tell how she got to that point. Then, hear about the programs that taught her to believe in herself, make goals for the future, and change her thinking so she could finally be free. Hear more stories like Kimberly’s about lives left behind and the transformations happening at Cara every day!

Recognition

In a space that engages such great thought leaders and movers ‘n’ shakers in the work of poverty alleviation, we are deeply honored to have received the following affirmations of our work:

  • 2016 REDF National Portfolio of Leading Social Enterprises
  • 2015 United Way of Metropolitan Chicago Income Impact Award
  • 2015 Skills for Chicagoland’s Future Advocate for the Unemployed Award
  • 2015 Chicago Magazine 20 Standout Nonprofits to Support
  • 2015 Chicago Innovation Award for Social Innovator

Make a Donation

Your gift goes to work so every Cara participant can. We greatly appreciate any consideration you can give in support of our mission.

$28
$28
Gives a participant a 7-day transit card to get to Cara. $28
$50
$50
Covers the first deposit for a Cara participant to open a bank account. $50
$115
$115
Means a Cleanslate intern gets a pair of work boots. $115
$200
$200
Covers an eye exam and glasses for a Cara participant. $200
$500
$500
Gives one-time rental assistance to keep a Cara family in their home. $500
$1,200
$1,200
Gives 2 weeks of Cara's critical training to a motivated job-seeker. $1,200
$2,500
$2,500
Lands 1 Cara candidate into a permanent job. $2,500
$4,500
$4,500
Gives an employed Cara participant 2 years of retention and career-advancement coaching. $4,500
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