Diane Latiker has never been one to wait for others to solve problems.
After all, she started her nonprofit Kids Off the Block 16 years ago by opening up her own living room to at-risk youth to curb gang violence, quickly gaining national recognition that included being honored as a CNN hero and one of L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth.
Before the spotlight was turned on the disproportionate COVID-19 deaths among African Americans — and social determinants fueling them — Latiker knew the disadvantaged population she served in Roseland would be hard hit.
After the Chicago Public Schools closed March 17, she and her husband set up a tent at 115th Street & Michigan Avenue, offering burgers, chips and juice to any hungry youth.
“I was sitting in my bedroom watching all the devastating coronavirus news and feeling afraid, even with my faith as strong as it is. So I prayed, and it came to me,” said the 63-year-old mother of eight and grandmother of 15.
“We’d wait for young people to come by, and ask them, ‘Hey, did you eat today? Did you go to the school?’ They’d say, ‘No,’ and we’d give them a meal. Then the homeless heard we were out there, and started coming. Now we were feeding them too.”