American Writers Museum to host Horizons showcase on May 22

Horizons welcomes the public to its 2018 writers showcase on Tuesday, May 22. Sponsored by the American Writers Museum, 180 North Michigan, the free event will feature original poetry read by homeless shelter-resident authors, most of them mothers and their older children.

The hour-long program will begin at 6:30 p.m. To attend, you must RSVP. Attendees are invited to visit the museum at 6 p.m., prior to the showcase, or for a half hour after the event.

Horizons is grateful to the American Writers Museum (AWM) – Chicago’s newest museum – for generous sponsorship of this year’s showcase. Opened last May, the Loop museum was voted Illinois’ best attraction in a USA Today Readers Choice poll and named one of the world’s 10 best new museums by Fodor’s.

“American writing happens in homeless shelters as surely as it does in any writing classroom,” said AWM President Carey Cranston. “AWM is proud to help celebrate the work of the writers in the Horizons program.”

Horizons is a creative writing outreach program offered at family shelters by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Twice-a-month sessions involve more than 100 people each year. This year’s writers live at three family shelters on Chicago’s South Side: Primo Center for Women and Children, A Safe Haven, and Margaret’s Village.

At the annual showcase, writers read their poems and short essays to an audience that includes their children and friends. The experience is very meaningful, as it becomes clear how important it is for any writer to have an audience listen and appreciate what s/he has to say.

“Everyone has a song to sing,” said Director of Organizing Wayne Richard, pointing to poems and short essays that range from emotional to wistful, hopeful to angry.

A new selection will be published online in CCH’s Horizons Reading Room and in a booklet distributed at the spring showcase.

Wayne launched Horizons in 2007. A CCH organizer since 2000, Wayne first became involved with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless when he participated in an earlier version of the writing program while living at a West Side shelter.

Adler University collaborates with Horizons. Graduate student Ruby Aranki is this year’s program intern, assisting Wayne with outreach. Adler’s art department, led by Dr. Jennifer LaCivita, contributes students’ emphatic art responses to the writer’s work, displaying these at the showcase.

Horizons has been gratefully supported by project-based grants from the Seabury Foundation.

– Anne Bowhay, Media


Justice Circle honors supporters, law firm, and a dedicated client

Top supporters, a pro bono law firm, and a dedicated client were honored by the CCH Law Project at its annual Justice Circle reception April 17.

Marta Delgado and Sam Nandi

Held at Revolution Brewing, the celebration included an award presented to attorney Marta Delgado and her husband, Sam Nandi for their generous support. The Chicago couple has helped the Law Project further its resources, including a vehicle to offer outreach to students and unaccompanied youth.

“Marta and I are inspired by the work you do, the way you support the most vulnerable members of our community, and the way you fight for change in Illinois,” said Mr. Nandi.

The Law Project also honored three attorneys from Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. Matthew Piers, Caryn Lederer, and Kate Schwartz were cited for their dedicated and skilled co-counseling of the first substantive case filed under the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.

CCH also thanked the client in that case, Robert Henderson. The Law Project and Hughes Socol represented Mr. Henderson when he sued after city workers, without notice, threw away his belongings from a West Side viaduct where he lived outside. Among his possessions lost in that November 2015 incident were medications, obituaries of loved ones, and a Bible given to him by a minister to his family.

From left, Matthew Piers, Robert Henderson, Caryn Lederer, Diane O’Connell, and Kate Schwartz

After more than two years, attorneys secured a February settlement that included monetary damages for Mr. Henderson.

“Right away when I met Robert, I knew there was something special about him,” said Diane O’Connell, his CCH attorney. “He was unafraid, he was committed, and he is usually about one hour early for any meeting! He inspired us, gave us pep talks, and was always clear that for him, this case wasn’t about winning or losing, it was about fighting back – and not just for himself, but for others who been forced to live outside and have experienced the same unjust treatment.

“Robert, I am honored to know you, and I want to thank you for bringing your dedication and courage to this case.”

Mr. Henderson, 64, now lives in a senior’s complex and volunteers at a soup kitchen.

The Law Project also thanks its Justice Circle event sponsors: Chase Bank was signature sponsor, with Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLP as leader sponsors.

Additional sponsorship was offered by United Airlines; Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C., and Funkhouser Vegosen Liebman & Dunn Ltd.

– Photos by Allison Williams

– Anne Bowhay, Media

Chase Day of Service outreach helps 63 parents

Chase Day of Service outreach team at Howe Elementary (Photo by Claire Sloss)

Working with 15 attorneys and volunteers from JPMorgan Chase Bank, staff of the CCH Law Project ran targeted outreach April 18 at two elementary schools and a family shelter on Chicago’s West Side.

The event assisted 63 parents at Howe and Ward elementary schools and the Single Room Housing Assistance Corporation (SRHAC).

Attorneys assisted homeless and at-risk families on more than 100 issues, including birth certificate requests, public benefits enrollment, and enrolling in preschool.

“It was among our most successful outreach days,” said Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes.

The Law Project regularly hosts volunteers participating in the annual “Chase Day of Service” initiative. Sharlita Davis, a Chase attorney and CCH Board member, helps organize the outreach initiative.

CCH community leaders head to Springfield – our 2018 agenda explained

More than 150 homeless leaders from shelters and schools in Chicago and Skokie joined the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) for a day of advocacy in Springfield on April 18.

CCH is advocating this spring legislative session on statewide measures that would impact low-income families and community college students, people in community reentry, and households facing homelessness. We brought 154 leaders to Springfield from Casa Central and La Casa Norte shelters, Earle Elementary and Schurz and Solario high schools in Chicago, and Niles West High School in Skokie.

Springfield advocacy day, April 18, 2018

CCH also works with the Responsible Budget Coalition on the Fair Tax Now campaign, advocating for a progressive income tax in Illinois.

These statewide measures are detailed below, with links to fact sheets. Continue reading CCH community leaders head to Springfield – our 2018 agenda explained

Springfield breakfast explains budget issues, bills to help homeless people

From left, Flora Koppel, Niya Kelly, Mercedes Gonzalez, Laura McNeece; back, Wayne Richard, Gloria Davis, and Doug Schenkelberg

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless hosted another successful annual Legislative Breakfast at the State Capitol. Members of the General Assembly were invited to talk with homeless service providers, CCH grassroots leaders, and staff at the April 11 event.

Laura McNeece from Aurora’s Hesed House and Flora Koppel from Unity Parenting & Counseling in Chicago discussed funding homeless and housing services in Illinois. They talked about the need to return homeless youth program funding to $5.6 million, now at $5.5 million. They also explained why homeless prevention grants should increase by $2 million, to $6.9 million.

Staff and leaders also spoke with legislators regarding CCH’s legislative priorities for the year. These bills include House Bill 5135/SB3115 to increase benefits for working families under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Senate Bill 351 would extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to community college students in vocational programs, and two reentry bills.

CCH is a partner in a reentry coalition, Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois. RROCI is advocating two bills to allow people to seal their criminal records regardless of any outstanding fines/fees (HB5341) and to establish standards for how employers should consider background checks (HB5334).

We would like to express much gratitude to the 16 legislators who attended our event and of course the service providers and leaders who volunteered their time.

– Mercedes González, Policy Specialist

Illinois News Network: Lawmakers reject plan to give churches immunity from lawsuits for housing homeless

By Cole Lauterbach

Illinois lawmakers shot down a plan to keep homeless people from suing the churches that allow them to come in from the cold.

State Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, said the Kankakee churches in her district want to help homeless people to stay out of the cold, but don’t because they’re afraid of getting sued if someone gets hurt during their stay.

“My churches will not open their doors because they are afraid of being sued and having the liability, especially in the ever-growing litigious society that we live in,” she told the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

Her bill would have given churches sheltering the homeless a level of legal immunity from lawsuits when they take in a homeless person overnight. She said the area doesn’t have adequate shelter during dangerously cold nights. The bill would have applied to counties with fewer than 300,000 people.

Niya Kelly with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said people shouldn’t lose their right to sue just to come in from the cold.

“We don’t take that ability to sue away from someone just because you are providing that assistance,” she said.

Most of the lawmakers agreed.

“The Bible says ‘Come as you are,’ not ‘Come as you are as long as you’re not going to sue our church,’ ” said Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City.

The measure was voted down and isn’t scheduled to be reconsidered.

WLS-TV: Northwest Side students create portable shelters for the homeless

By John Garcia

Middle school students in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood have designed and built a prototype for a portable homeless shelter.

They’re the invisible population in Chicago. The thousands of people who have no permanent place to live.

A group of middle school students at the HSA Belmont Charter School developed a possible solutions.

At first glance, the structure looks like some sort of a vehicle, made of plywood with wheels and attached by a tow rod to a bike. It’s got a little door and a couple windows, enough room to sleep in and even store some possessions. And this would be the place they call home.

The 11-and-12-year-old students who designed and built this structure named it “Hope.” It’s a portable homeless shelter.

“It’ll help them have a warm place to stay, somewhere they can relax and not be in the cold,” said student Jozlyn Aquerro.

“Even if we’re not buying them a mansion or a three-bedroom home, this is a place they can stay and can sleep and can have a piece of humanity,” said student Jayla Brown.

The project is the brainchild of their teacher, Peter Legrand. As an engineering teacher, he wanted the kids to apply what they learned to try to solve social problems.

“Initially I thought we would be at for three to four weeks and it became clear that there was something much bigger going on. They really wanted to change the world,” said Legrand.

It is increasingly difficult for the homeless population in Chicago to find shelter.

The director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said there are more than 16,000 homeless people on the streets and in shelters in Chicago.

“I think it’s great for the school to engage kids into thinking about homelessness and about what it means,” said Doug Schenkelberg, director of the Chicago Coalition for Homeless.

LINK to the video

The students named the structure “Hope.” Their teacher can relate.

“I have experienced homelessness personally and I can say that what makes a difference is hope,” said Legrand.

All the materials involved, including the bike, which was donated, cost about $150.

The school believes this a prototype that could be mass-produced. Either way, their teacher said it’s been quite an education.

Wayne Richard named Director of Organizing

Wayne Richard, a veteran community organizer and a former leader, has been named to serve as the new Director of Organizing at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Wayne is known and respected by CCH allies and those working in the homeless community. A member of the organizing staff for 18 years, he most recently served as Associate Director of Organizing. In that role, he directed organizer training and led Horizons, a creative writing outreach program offered in family shelters. Continue reading Wayne Richard named Director of Organizing

New CCH informational brochure on how to access identification documents

Losing an identification card or other essential documents is a real inconvenience for most of us — long lines at the Secretary of State’s office, waiting for a new Social Security card in the mail, or having to pay online for a new birth certificate.

But for people experiencing homelessness, the loss of a vital ID record can be devastating.

Lacking any combination of the three essential documents – birth certificate, Social Security card, and state ID card – can prevent a homeless person from starting a new job, signing a lease, accessing public benefits, or doing something as simple as entering a government building.

Many homeless individuals have their belongings, including vital documents, lost or stolen because of their unstable living situation, leaving them with nothing. Getting a new ID without another ID can seem impossible, especially for those without financial resources and assistance. Continue reading New CCH informational brochure on how to access identification documents

Crain’s Chicago Business, Opinion: Loop ‘security guards’ a dangerous precedent

Getty Images/iStockphoto


By Doug Schenkelberg

If you spend any time in Chicago’s Loop, you will encounter people grappling with homelessness. They may be looking to passers-by for help, or they may be simply trying to make it through their day. Because Chicago lacks enough shelter beds and permanent supportive housing to assist those in need, we see hundreds of people who make their lives on the streets of Chicago.

More: More Chicago hospitals are getting into the housing business

This month, Chicago Loop Alliance announced hiring two armed, private security guards to patrol a portion of the Loop. “Aggressive panhandling” is among the reported issues that these new guards will address on patrol. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has many concerns about the addition of armed guards to police downtown streets.

People coping with homelessness already experience high levels of harassment by some Chicago police officers. Homeless people are targeted, often accused of panhandling that is “aggressive”—an offense that can be ticketed—all in a push to drive them out.

Under the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless, people who are homeless have the right to move freely in public spaces. It is our fear, based on many years of working on this issue, that with this new program downtown harassment will increase, making it even harder for people trying to get by.

Homelessness is a complex issue. It impacts people struggling with extreme poverty and all too often managing trauma and mental health issues. Adding guns and lesser-trained security guards to that mix is a recipe for escalation. A situation that could and should be dealt with from a place of support could easily turn into something regrettable for everyone involved.

The sad fact that there are homeless people subsisting on Loop streets should lead to a public discussion on how we collectively solve homelessness. Loop Alliance did not reach out to homeless advocates for input on its decision to put armed guards on downtown streets. Had they talked with us, we would have pointed out that resources are better spent advocating for more affordable housing—the only true solution to homelessness.

Doug Schenkelberg is executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Link to Crain’s article

Link to Chicago Loop Alliance media release