"The idea is so simple, it is surprising that no one thought of it sooner," says Winerip. "College is hard enough when students live on campus and have all the support they need. For commuter students in poor neighborhoods living with their families in cramped quarters, just finding somewhere to do schoolwork can be a challenge." La Casa, provides students from all colleges in the greater Chicago area with "more than a place to live." There are on-site resident assistants, counselors, and tutors in addition to computers and printers for general use.
The dorm was built by the Resurrection Project, a non-profit serving Latinos in Chicago. Founded by neighborhood activist Raul Raymundo in the late 1980s, the organization started with small issues such as public safety and has, since then, developed more than 600 low-income housing units, two child-care centers, a health clinic at a local school, youth recreation programs and support services for immigrants.
La Casa was financed with an $8.4 million state grant, $600,00 in donations and a $3 million mortgage, reports Winerip. "Most dorms are owned and run by colleges, and there are dorms run by private companies for colleges," said Joe Agron, editor in chief of American School and University, who believes La Casa is the first of its kind in the country. "But setting up a dorm for students in the community from many colleges - I've never heard of it."