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About Us


For 125 years, Northwestern Settlement has nurtured, educated, and inspired children and families in need in Chicago. Focusing on changing lives through education, social services, and the arts, Northwestern Settlement’s programs are fully integrated to meet the complex needs of our neighbors.

Northwestern Settlement’s comprehensive approach to community building provides our neighbors:

Immediate Assistance

Immediate assistance for short-term emergencies

Knowledge & Opportunities

Knowledge, opportunities and support to disrupt generational poverty

Programs & Services

Access to a rich, city-wide network of additional programs and services


Northwestern Settlement was founded in 1891 by leaders of Northwestern University, as a separate and financially-independent institution. At that time, the West Town community was primarily the home of disenfranchised German, Polish, Irish, and Scandinavian immigrants, and the neighborhood failed to register in Chicago’s collective conscience.

Inspired by the Settlement Movement, and led by Northwestern University President Henry Wade Rogers and his wife Emma, Northwestern University Settlement Association was founded. The original Settlement Movement model involved settling in a needy community and recruiting university faculty, staff, graduates, and volunteers to live and work at the house, gathering resources to empower community residents to change their own lives. Today, although our methods of service have changed, Northwestern Settlement continues to provide transformational opportunities.

For more on the history of the Settlement, check out our centennial book The Worn Doorstep.

Information about Chicago's Settlement Movement can be found at Chicago Collections.

Holistic Programming

Northwestern Settlement offers a wide array of programs and services in West Town and across the city.  With education as the driving force, the majority of programs fall into three categories: youth, arts, and social services. Current programming includes:
This holistic approach to community problem solving incorporates extensive networking with neighborhood schools, area universities, police departments, neighborhood governments, citywide non-profit organizations, local businesses, and other community-based organizations and service providers.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Early Childhood Education Program, which at capacity serves 60 children every year, is that in addition to a rigorous academic and social/emotional plan we fully utilize other, existing Settlement programs, as well.

Early Childhood Education and Rowe Elementary act as instructional partners ensuring that Early Childhood graduates who enter Rowe Elementary are kinder-ready and do not lose momentum as they make their transition.

Our nationally recognized Adventure Stage Chicago develops arts programming that is an integral part of our curriculum through creative play and performances.

The Settlement’s House In The Wood Camp in Delavan, WI, provides residential camping experiences for families during the summer months and outdoor education for students during the school year.

The Food Pantry and Family Services help meet our families’ immediate needs in a variety of ways: providing food, rent assistance, utility and transportation assistance.