CCH staff to present at national conference on educating homeless children and youth

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless staff members will be presenters when the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) hosts its national conference in Chicago later this month.

Called “Together in the Heartland,” the conference will train hundreds of youth service providers, educators, and advocates to work more effectively with children and teens experiencing homelessness. The conference runs Sunday, Oct. 29 through Tuesday, Oct. 31 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

The CCH-led HomeWorks campaign will be explained at an opening day session (Oct. 29, 2:45 p.m.) The panelists are Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes, Associate Policy DIrector Mary Tarullo, Associate Organizing Director Hannah Willage, and Education Committee members Ashley Allen and Marilyn Escoe.

They will discuss how HomeWorks advocated for a stronger homeless education policy, adopted in 2016 by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). They will also explain campaign advocacy to create a program that this school year will house 100 homeless families from six CPS elementary schools. Called Housing Support for CPS Families in Transition, or FIT, it is the first city-funded Chicago housing program to include homeless families that live doubled-up with relatives or friends.

At a second session on Oct. 31 (10:30 a.m.), three CCH attorneys will discuss legal and legislative barriers that restrict homeless children’s access to healthcare, housing, education, legal identification, and public benefits. They’ll also talk about CCH advocacy to allow unaccompanied minors to consent to their own healthcare, and securing local and state legislation providing free birth records to homeless people in Cook County and in Illinois.

The panelists will be Associate Law Project Director Beth Malik, Staff Attorney Diane O’Connell, and Youth Health Attorney Tanya Gassenheimer.

Information on registering for the conference is available at http://www.naehcy.org/2017-conference-registration.

– Cydney Salvador, Media Intern

CCH releases findings on ‘doubled-up’ homeless families, city offers new housing resources to help 100 families

An analysis by Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) shows that 82% of homeless people in Chicago in 2015 sought shelter with relatives and friends, also known as being “doubled-up.”

CCH’s report was released as its HomeWorks campaign joined the city of Chicago in April to announce the city’s new school-based housing initiative. The program will offer permanent housing and support services to 100 homeless families attending six Chicago Public Schools (CPS) located in high-crime communities.

By late September, 49 families were identified as qualifying for permanent housing through the program, known as Housing Support for CPS Families in Transition.  Continue reading CCH releases findings on ‘doubled-up’ homeless families, city offers new housing resources to help 100 families

Free birth records for people experiencing homelessness, under new state law advocated by CCH

A new state law to provide free birth certificates for people experiencing homelessness is another example of “access to records” advocacy by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

A similar measure enacted by the Cook County Board covers homeless people as well as residents of domestic violence shelters and people released from incarceration within the previous 90 days. The county ordinance was effective upon adoption in April. The statewide measure will take effect January 1, 2018.

Access to one’s birth certificate is a key issue for many who are homeless, particularly unaccompanied youth living on their own.   Continue reading Free birth records for people experiencing homelessness, under new state law advocated by CCH

Rachel Ramirez writes on her organizing training in Central Europe

Returning from her travels this month in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, Senior Community Organizer Rachel Ramirez shares her insights and experiences during an international exchange program for organizers. 

She writes:

Rachel Ramirez

In Hungary, community organizers face a populist political climate in which their motives are questioned by a government suspicious of foreign influence and funding, including and especially that of George Soros, a Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist. Even after winning several local issues related to bus transportation, one local organizer related that he was questioned by local community members about whether his organization was funded by Soros and other international donors. They had heard about such influence on the government-controlled media. With true organizer bravado and political sense, he reported to have responded, “Yes we receive international funding. Does the bus now stop in front of your house?” It did, thanks to his organizing efforts with the people of that community.  Continue reading Rachel Ramirez writes on her organizing training in Central Europe

Action Alert: Tell Gov. Rauner to oppose the latest ACA repeal bill

With the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill moving fast, we need your help to stop this new effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If an Obamacare repeal bill passes with a simple majority in the U.S. Senate next week, it is expected to sail through the GOP-led U.S. House.

Millions would lose health insurance coverage under Graham-Cassidy, a bill many are calling the most harmful repeal measure yet. Homeless and low-income adults would immediately lose coverage in Medicaid expansion states, including Illinois. It would eliminate insurance subsidies paid to moderate-income workers who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Over time, families and children could also lose coverage. Illinois is projected to lose $8 billion in federal Medicaid funding by 2026, $153 billion by 2036.  Continue reading Action Alert: Tell Gov. Rauner to oppose the latest ACA repeal bill

Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez offers training in Central Europe

Rachel Ramirez offers organizer training in Hungary

Senior Community Organizer Rachel Ramirez traveled to Hungary, Romania and Slovakia this month, training and collaborating with service providers interested in learning more about community organizing.

The Great Lakes Consortium (GLC) for International Training and Development offers the organizing exchange between the U.S. and Central Europe.  Continue reading Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez offers training in Central Europe

Lawsuit will continue that contends Uptown viaduct redesign discriminates against homeless people

Attorneys for homeless residents evicted from living in tents under the Wilson and Lawrence avenue viaducts will continue a lawsuit contesting the discriminatory redesign of Uptown viaducts, now undergoing reconstruction.

At a court hearing Monday, attorneys that include the CCH Law Project withdrew a request for a temporary restraining order, noting that the issue was moot because the hearing was set several hours after the city carried out the 7 a.m. eviction.

The lawsuit contends the re-design violates the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights because it “discriminates against (viaduct residents) solely because they are homeless. The city’s current design plans were drawn with the purpose of intentionally preventing plaintiffs and other homeless individuals from returning to the viaducts after the repairs are complete.”  Continue reading Lawsuit will continue that contends Uptown viaduct redesign discriminates against homeless people

Chicago Tribune: City ousts relocated tent city; advocates withdraw bid to stop Uptown viaduct construction

With the start of construction to begin this week, dozens of homeless people living in tents under crumbling viaducts in the Uptown neighborhood are displaced to other locations. The city’s resolution is to move the homeless people living under the viaducts to Pacific Garden Mission, a homeless shelter on the Near West Side. (Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune) – LINK to Tribune photo gallery

By Mary Wisniewski and Marissa Page

The city of Chicago cleared out what was left of the former homeless encampments under Lake Shore Drive in Uptown on Monday morning and required residents to leave a nearby parkway, while advocates abandoned their attempts in court to block the city from starting construction on the crumbling structures.

Representatives from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless withdrew a request for a temporary restraining order they hoped would delay work on the Wilson and Lawrence avenue bridges, a six-month construction project that required more than two dozen homeless people living under the bridges to move elsewhere. The bridges were built in 1933 and are among the most traveled structurally deficient structures in the city, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, a Washington-based trade group.

The coalition sought permanent housing options for the tent city residents, and say that the city’s plans for bike paths on the sidewalks at Lawrence and Wilson are intended to block the homeless from returning.

“We believe they are intentionally discriminatory,” coalition attorney Patricia Nix-Hodes told reporters after the hearing, referring to the construction plans.

Construction could begin as soon as Tuesday, according to Chicago Department of Transportation spokeswoman Susan Hofer, and is scheduled to continue until March 31.

The tent city residents had relocated their tents to a grassy parkway just west of the bridges Sunday. Streets and Sanitation workers tossed blankets, food, mattresses and a tent left under the Lawrence bridge into blue garbage trucks early Monday.

Later in the morning, police began ordering the former tent city residents to leave the new spot they picked along the public way bordering Wilson and Marine Drive.

Chicago police Cmdr. Marc Buslik said CDOT workers would seize tents and belongings from those who did not comply with the order to move, and that remaining residents would receive citations. However, Hofer said CDOT would not have confiscated tents and belongings.

“Our role is enforcing the freedom of the public way, and by filing complaints with the Police Department we did that,” Hofer said. She said the tents were so close to the street that if someone had tripped and fallen out of a tent, he or she could have been run over. “We wanted them to be safe.”

About 10:45 a.m., officers stationed themselves behind the encampment along Wilson as some residents began packing their possessions. City workers began removing tents and belongings just before 11:15 as supporters chanted, “Stop harassing the homeless.”

Deputy Chief Al Nagode said the residents’ personal effects were being taken to the North Area Community Service Center at 845 W. Wilson, which is operated by the city’s Family and Support Services Department.

Nagode said residents had to leave because their tents were in a permitted area for construction.

By noon Monday, most of the tents on the parkway had been dismantled and the enforcement left people scrambling to find alternatives. One man asked officers for some additional time to vacate the area, as he tried to secure a different housing arrangement. Several residents said they had not determined where they would head next.

City officials said they have been working with the homeless and trying to find them alternative housing. But many of the people interviewed say they don’t want the shelter offered.

Maggie Gruzlewski, 49, who has depression as well as multiple physical problems, said her pocket has been picked at a shelter and she doesn’t want to stay there.

“I have a hard time sleeping there,” she said. “It’s noisy. There are bedbugs.”

She said she’s on a waiting list for housing and has been homeless for six months.

A former resident at the Lawrence bridge, Senad Filan, 45, was in tears. He thought he would get a key to an apartment Monday from an advocacy group. But it didn’t come, and now he was not sure what would happen. He said he had been homeless for five years.

“You try to be calm and be patient,” said Filan, wiping his eyes as he stood by his collapsed tent, decorated with a Blackhawks scarf. “Some friends are going to help me.”

Andrew Worseck, an attorney for the city, told Cook County Circuit Judge Celia Gamrath in court on Monday that the city had also arranged for shelter beds in Uptown, and that more shelter options are being added daily. City officials had proposed moving the tent city residents to the Pacific Garden Mission in the South Loop, about 8 miles away.

But attorneys for the coalition countered that the shelter beds in Uptown were for men only, and that the Pacific Garden Mission did not have facilities for the mentally ill. Many tent city residents said they rejected an offer from the city to go to the South Loop facility for similar reasons, and also because it requires participation in religious services.

Yehuda Rothschild, one of the founders of Uptown Tent City Organizers, said residents and advocates were hoping that a permanent housing option from the city would materialize by Monday. Hope was a “long shot,” but residents had few other options, he said.

“These are people at the end of their rope,” Rothschild said. “They can’t help themselves or they would.”

Julian Andrews, 37, said he began living under the Lawrence viaduct after losing his previous housing. He said he scraped together enough money to stay in a hotel Sunday night and returned to the neighborhood to collect his possessions from the bridge.

By the time he arrived Monday morning, city crews had cleared the area, and his things were gone. He said did not know whether his belongings had been thrown away or moved someplace else.

“I’m lost, man. I’m lost more than I already was,” Andrews said through tears.

Monday press conference: City to evict Uptown viaduct residents with no alternative

WHEN: Monday, September 18, 7 a.m.

WHAT: Press conference convened by homeless encampment residents of the viaducts on Lake Shore Drive at Wilson and Lawrence avenues. Residents received a 30-day notice that they must vacate the premises by September 18 at 7 a.m. due to viaduct repairs.

Residents who will be displaced have been calling for a housing alternative as well as a re-design of the viaducts that does not discriminate against homeless people. The current re-design puts bike lanes on the sidewalks, which is less safe for pedestrians, bikes, and cars, and which is discriminatory toward homeless people. The city has met neither of these demands.

Residents will speak to the press about their campaign, the city’s lack of response, and their plans moving forward.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, residents will be in Courtroom 2508 of the Daley Center regarding their complaint filed by CCH against the city of Chicago, pursuant to the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.

WHERE: Wilson Avenue and Lake Shore Drive

WHO: Homeless residents of the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), and ONE Northside

For more information:

Mary Tarullo, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless: mary@chicagohomeless.org

Angelica Sanchez, ONE Northside: asanchez@onenorthside.org