Our History

heartland_history001In the late 1800s, Chicago was quickly becoming home to one of America’s largest immigrant populations. They came in pursuit of the American dream of hope and opportunity, but struggled to find a foothold. That’s when poverty, illness and homelessness set in.

Heartland Alliance opened its doors in 1888, pioneered, in part, by Jane Addams, founder of Hull House and one of Chicago’s first leaders in the movement to end poverty. From the beginning, we worked to bring healthcare, housing and support to people facing homelessness. Over the years, we’ve continued our mission, helping to restore dignity to the most vulnerable populations. We reconnected immigrant families separated at Ellis Island and became first responders during the Great Depression to those in need of housing. When veterans returned from World War I and World War II, we offered them the services they needed to recover. Later, as crises of homelessness, limitations on mental and physical healthcare services and the spread of HIV/AIDS reached a fever pitch, we were among the first to respond, opening some of Chicago’s first housing and healthcare clinics to serve those in need.

heartland_history008These principles still guide us today. We now work throughout the Midwest and in 20 countries around the world, using our experience to advocate for change. We serve more than 500,000 people each year, including refugees, those experiencing homelessness and chronic illness, and those seeking justice. We connect them with the services they need to escape poverty and heal, just as we have for more than 125 years. Want to learn more about our mission to end poverty? Read about our work in housing, healthcare, jobs and justice.