After 120 years, Chicago's landmark Jane Addams Hull House Association is now closed.
The social services settlement, founded by Nobel prize winner Jane Addams in 1889, closed because it ran out of funding. About 300 people lost their jobs.
There were tears and hugs Friday afternoon as former employees of the Hull House said goodbye to each other and to the charitable organization where many of them have worked for decades. They signed a giant banner and passed out the last of the memorabilia. Many employees said they were sad to be leaving and at the same angry at management for how the closing was handled.
“Regular staff didn't even get the message until this week, so in just a matter of a few days to wind all these programs down," said project director Jon Putnam.
The offices and community rooms upstairs show just how quickly everything had to shut down. Desks were hardly cleared off, clothes that were donated sit in piles and furniture is scattered everywhere. Most employees say they weren't given notice until this week, giving them hardly any time to notify the hundreds of families that rely on their services.
"Just got here today and finding out that they took my insurance out of my payroll, I have no insurance until the end of the month, and I've got another bill on top of getting no severance pay or 6-8 weeks of vacation pay," said Millie Ortiz, a 31-year employee at Hull house.
The Hull House has provided all kinds of social services including foster care, job training, and domestic violence counseling to thousands. Employees say they are upset because they believe families would have found a way to raise the money needed to keep it open.
"They were given no opportunity to set this right, they have meager resources,” said Barbara Becker, a 17-year Hull House employee. “They could have figured something out."
Hull House management estimates that the organization is several million dollars in debt. Still, employees say they wish it could have been handled differently.
"It’s very painful because we helped so many people and now we have to help each other," said Phyllis Offord, a 39-year Hull House employee.