Though not a common sight in the Northwest suburbs, a homeless person standing at an intersection with a cardboard placard asking for money hardly turns heads of passing motorists.
Yet, one family squatting Wednesday on a parkway off the westbound exit ramp of the Jane Addams Tollway at Arlington Heights Road is raising eyebrows.
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California couple Joey and April Giancaspro came to the Northwest suburbs to take care of Joey's ailing grandmother who lives in an assisted living facility in Hoffman Estates.
The Giancaspros soon found themselves running out of savings and struggling to find employment, ultimately ending up soliciting aid on the street with their 1-year-old son, Gavin, and 18-month-old pet Chihuahua, Chivo. The Giancaspros left their other pet, a 1-year-old German shepherd named Silo, at an Arlington Heights motel where they're temporarily housed.
"Things didn't go as planned and now we're kind of out in the cold," said Joey Giancaspro, 38, who grew up in Niles with his grandmother, Rose.
He said the family has tried to get help from area churches, Catholic Charities and Public Action to Deliver Shelter agencies but has been turned away because most shelters don't house pets and some have separate accommodations for men and for women and children.
"We really want to try to keep our family together," said April Giancaspro, 28. "They want to split us up."
The Giancaspros have been moving from one motel to another to keep a roof over their heads. What they really need is jobs to get back on their feet, she added.
April Giancaspro said she interviewed this week for a job at Motel 6 in Elk Grove Village and is waiting to hear back, while Joey Giancaspro is still seeking employment as a day laborer. Joey Giancaspro said he used to work as a delivery driver for BMW in California and has 15 years experience working in printing.
But one drawback to finding employment is the couple doesn't have permanent Illinois residency or state identification cards, Joey Giancaspro said.
"We are living day to day," April Giancaspro said. "We were renting a three-bedroom home in California. This is just not what we're used to. If he does not get day labor, we can't pay for a motel. We are basically in survival mode right now because of my son. I can't let my son sleep on the street at night. I can't let him sleep in the car."
While soliciting aid Wednesday, a passing state police trooper warned the couple that they were endangering their child and couldn't sit at the intersection with him, though they could stay by themselves.
Joey Giancaspro said the child is a big reason people take notice of the couple.
"That's the only way we get help, if we sit there as a family," he said.
Though he has family in the area, the couple has received more help from strangers, he added.
Soon after the trooper rousted them, the couple crossed Arlington Heights Road to seek assistance from nearby Elk Grove Township offices. Township staff gave the couple information about applying for food stamps and other benefits, and a list of shelters, none of which accept pets. They also offered the family supplies from the pantry, April Giancaspro said.
"A lot of the shelters that they gave us we have already contacted," she said. "Unfortunately, they keep wanting to separate us."
Elk Grove Township Supervisor Nanci Vanderweel said the township could offer only limited help because the couple doesn't live in the township.
"We can give them some food, which we did. … We can give them all kids of resource information if they are homeless, refer them to agencies that deal with that or refer them to the PADS program. … We just cannot take them on as an ongoing client," she said.
Vanderweel said visiting township clients were concerned about the safety of the couple's child and dog as the family was at times standing amid traffic over the past few days. They called police, who urged the couple to seek help from the township.
"The information that we were able to give them and the food will carry them over a little bit. It buys them some time where they are not out on that road, and certainly not with a baby and two dogs," she said.
Anyone wanting to help can reach the family via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.