Beginning Jan. 1, more community college students in Illinois are eligible for the SNAP food program

Updated February 13, 2018

A new public policy win will help an estimated 40,000 community college students in Illinois: In 2018, low-income, vocational-track students are eligible to apply for the SNAP food assistance program.

New rules issued by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) will allow these students to apply whether full- or part-time students. Previously, only part-time students could qualify for SNAP, also known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

In early February, an IDHS spokeswoman said that students can apply for SNAP after IDHS completes rule-making procedures. Announcements will be made when this new eligibility opens.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has advocated this eligibility for more than five years through its homeless youth campaign, No Youth Alone.

“This is an exciting victory for students,” said State Legislative Director Niya Kelly. “CCH has been in talks with IDHS for years, working to change this antiquated policy.  Homeless students consistently listed this as one of their top barriers in finishing up their education.”

CCH has asked IDHS to implement a rule change like the one enacted since Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration. When that was unsuccessful, CCH worked with Heartland Alliance and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law to propose 2017 legislation later called the “College Hunger Bill.”

It was part of CCH’s successful legislative package, “Three Steps Home.”

As HB3211, the SNAP bill enjoyed strong, bi-partisan support, passing the Illinois House, 85-25, in March 2017 and the Senate, 50-1, in May 2017. But Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto on August 18, saying the Illinois Student Assistance Commission should not be required to assist with implementation.

So advocates worked with the legislative sponsors to introduce a new bill – Senate Bill 351 – during the fall 2017 veto session. The College Hunger Bill passed the Illinois Senate by a 54-1 vote on Oct. 25. But the measure failed to progress through the House before the veto session ended.

Later in November, IDHS announced it was adopting a rule change to allow these students to apply for SNAP.

Working with Heartland and the Shriver Center, CCH will continue to advocate for legislation (SB351) in 2018 that ensures students retain access to SNAP even if IDHS were to change its rules again.

For their strong leadership, CCH offers thanks to the bills’ legislative sponsors, Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) and Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), and to IDHS Secretary James Dimas.

Key staff advocating on this issue are Policy’s Niya Kelly, who leads current efforts for CCH, and earlier advocacy by Policy Director Julie Dworkin and Associate Law Project Director Beth Malik.

The new SNAP policy is still in the rule-making process. Students with questions may contact their local IDHS office. When implementation begins, CCH will provide an update.

Forty-eight percent of college students report experiencing food insecurity and 22% report having to skip meals, per a recent national survey. Increased hunger on college campuses is blamed on the rising cost of higher education, scarce financial aid, and the rapidly changing face of the traditional college student. Hunger is a pressing issue in Illinois, especially among students at community colleges.

Students in vocational-track community college courses include: Agriculture; Business and office; Marketing and distribution (information management and product/service management); Health (CNA, LPN and RN programs); Home economic sciences (food preparation and culinary studies); Technical education (computers and data processing, engineering and science technologies, and communication technologies); and Trade (automotive or HVAC courses).

– Anne Bowhay, Media

WBEZ: Homeless couple sues city, claims targeted harassment

Editor’s Note: The CCH Law Project is co-counseling this case with the law firm of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd.

A homeless couple is suing the city of Chicago and some of its employees over what they claim is repeated harassment over the last three years.

WBEZ’s Odette Yousef reports.

Amie Smith and Shawn Moore claim that city workers threw away at least eight tents they’ve lived in. WBEZ reported on one of those incidents late last year.

Diane O’Connell, their attorney from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, says that’s not even the half of it.

“By destroying their property, forcing them to move repeated times, and by other conduct, the city of Chicago has violated their right to equal treatment, their right to privacy in their possessions, and their right to use public space.”
O’Connell says they have those rights under the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act. The city’s law department did not immediately respond.

Listen to the radio report

WMAQ Channel 5: Chicago official calls displacement of homeless during frigid temperatures ‘unfortunate’

By Mary Ann Ahern

WATCH the Channel 5 report here

The city of Chicago admitted Thursday cleaning out a viaduct in freezing temperatures, where the homeless had taken shelter, was a mistake.

The city threw out all of their belongings and now says the incident was “unfortunate.”

Ryan from Woodridge, just 10 years old, had brought backpacks to the homeless at the viaduct at Belmont and Kedzie–many of those gifts thrown out as garbage.

NBC 5 went back to that viaduct Thursday and spoke to a woman who has lived on the streets for more than a year.

Blanca is back at Belmont and Kedzie, where she lives under this viaduct when she’s not riding the “El” train to stay warm.

She lost all of her belongings when the city cleaned this viaduct Wednesday — even the backpacks donated by young Ryan.

“And my blanket, all my Christmas stuff… they took everything,” she said.

Chicago’s Coalition for the Homeless and Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa are critical of the city’s cleanup–when the temperatures are hovering near zero.

“I’m very upset that this is the way the city went about this, they didn’t provide my office with notification, and they didn’t go about this the right way, I think that it was a mistake,” Rosa said.

Doug Schenkelberg, executive director of the CCH, says the homeless just want housing.

“How do we provide real resources and support to people who are homeless and have to live in this situation?” he asked.

Another question posited is whether the city will continue with the viaduct cleanups or wait until it’s not quite so frigid.

“What happened yesterday was unfortunate,” Alisa Rodriguez, of the city’s Homeless Services. “We definitely want to make sure that it does not happen again like that.”

Rodriguez, who is the city’s point person for the homeless, notes while the clean up was clearly posted — when the weather turned as cold as it did adjustments should have been made.

“When it’s single digits the utmost important things to remember is the safety of these individuals and to make sure cleaning becomes secondary,” she said.

Blanca is grateful for coats left for the homeless Thursday, trying on several before she heads off to ride the “El” during the coldest hours of the evening.

The city says it will work with all of its partners in communicating how to better balance the issues of cleaning up the viaducts at the same time being aware of how cold it is outside.

Where to turn for help in frigid weather

Chicagoans should call “311” if they need weather-related help in frigid winter weather, including access to homeless shelters or city warming centers.streetlight-chicago-image

Garfield warming center at 10 South Kedzie Avenue is open 24/7. Six other neighborhood warming centers, listed here, are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays whenever temperatures go below 32 degrees.

In the suburbs, people can contact police non-emergency numbers to ask about warming centers, many of which are housed in police station lobbies and libraries. To find a warming center statewide, see www.keepwarm.illinois.gov

StreetLight Chicago, a free mobile app for homeless youth, provides alerts and lists resources such as shelter and drop-in centers that serve unaccompanied youth through age 24. The free app can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play. Continue reading Where to turn for help in frigid weather

Thanks to Zumiez, 300+ homeless people have new coats for winter

New coats were a hit at these boys’ South Side shelter. (Photo by Keith Freeman)

Thanks to outerwear retailer Zumiez, homeless families are ready for winter this holiday season.

Every year since 2005, Zumiez has shipped more than 40 boxes of coats, hoodies, blankets, gloves and hats.

That’s 550 boxes of clothing in 13 years!

This year Zumiez sent us 42 boxes – 200 coats for men, women and children, 96 blankets, 96 adult hoodies, 120 hats, and 40 pairs of gloves.

Community organizers distribute the clothing at some of the 40+ shelters where they run outreach.

“It’s a generous donation that really helps people in need,” said Associate Director of Organizing Wayne Richard, who managed this year’s distribution.

– Anne Bowhay, Media

 

 

Chicago Reader: Mistreatment of the homeless

Chicago police commonly confiscate and throw away the tents of the homeless

CPD’s policy seems more concerned with optics than with law and order.

JAMIE RAMSAY

 

From Chicago Reader’s “Worst of Chicago 2017” edition

It’s important for me as a progressive stereotype to listen to public radio while driving and to get outraged at the news. If my hackles are especially raised, I will even tweet about it. (Like I said, progressive stereotype.) This is what transpired in October after I heard a report from WBEZ’s Odette Yousef about the common Chicago policing practice of confiscating and throwing away the tents of the homeless. According to Yousef’s story, one explanation the Chicago Police Department gives to defend the practice is a law that says it’s illegal to block a public thoroughfare. CPD cites a provision of the city’s municipal code: “No person shall use any public way for the storage of personal property, goods, wares or merchandise of any kind. Nor shall any person place or cause to be placed in or upon any public way, any barrel, box, hogshead, crate, package or other obstruction of any kind, or permit the same to remain thereon longer than is necessary to convey such article to or from the premises abutting on such sidewalk.”

OK, let’s say I park my car on a sidewalk. A cop would write me a ticket and tell me to move along, but I think we’d all be shocked if he told me to get out of the car, proceeded to smash my vehicle into a cube in front of me, and then wouldn’t even let me keep the cube. (Would he throw my hogshead of mead into the trash too?)

Regardless of the laws human beings who are homeless may or may not be breaking by setting up a tent in public, the CPD seems more concerned with optics than with law and order. The logic of the policy to a progressive stereotype such as myself seems to be: homeless people should not be publicly visible and they will be intimidated and destabilized until they’re made invisible. Never mind that there isn’t room enough in all of Chicago’s shelters to accommodate the thousands who are homeless. Even if there was, shelters are often not stable, safe places to stay.

What would help create more stability for these folks? I can think of a dozen things off the top of my head, many of which are a part of the ongoing work of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, none of which are stealing and destroying the property, shelter, privacy, and peace of our fellow Chicagoans most in need.   

ABC7: Chance the Rapper hosts party at Field Museum to help the homeless

By Stacy Baca and Cheryl Burton

“We get our people involved, we get our merchandise involved…every resource we have. And when we partner with a group like SocialWorks, we go all in,” said Bradley Nardick, Bargains in a Box.

There was music and dancing and free goodies among the dinosaurs.

While the party was free for needy students, those who can afford it were asked to donate $15 to SocialWorks and winter gear for the homeless. The effort was not lost on even Chance’s youngest fans.

“It means to me very a lot, because he gives people things to those in need and all of that, and it’s pretty good,” Shaylah Clay said.

In Chicago, 82,000 people are homeless, 82 percent of them are doubling up, like couch surfing or staying in a shelter.

“We know that a lot of homelessness isn’t seen, it’s hidden. It’s really important for people to recognize when you see someone on the street that’s just a sliver of the problem,” said Doug Schenkelberg, executive director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

In fact, 18,000 CPS students are homeless. Statewide, that number jumps to 50,000.

LINK to VIEW THE VIDEO

Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown: Homeless memorial service honors anonymous lives

Benjamin Soto Ramirez was a late entry to the program for Tuesday’s Chicago Homeless Persons Memorial service at Old St. Patrick’s Church.

Ramirez, 67, was beaten to death over the weekend, his body discovered on the sidewalk near the doorway where he usually slept in East Ukrainian Village. 

Most homeless people don’t die quite so dramatically.

They pass quietly, often out of sight, their deaths more likely an unconfirmed rumor to those who knew them on the street than the basis for a news story.

Many never get a funeral. Some of their bodies go unclaimed at the morgue.

It was with that in mind that the annual memorial service was first organized in 2010 by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Ignatian Spirituality Project and Old St. Pat’s.

The service provides an opportunity to both pay respects to the dead and call attention to those who remain homeless.

The highlight of the program is the reading of the names of homeless people known to have died in the past year.

As each name is read aloud, a student carries a candle in honor of that individual to the front of the church. It can be an emotional experience.

I say “known” to have died because it’s not as if there is any official list. The names are submitted by homeless shelters familiar with the program.

It is understood that the list is not complete, which is why the candle procession always ends with a nod to “those whose names are known only to God.”

There are 33 names on this year’s list. Where possible, the organizers try to include at least a sentence about each person.

Marcus Faleti, an alcoholic who froze to death at age 58 in Wicker Park in early January, will be remembered as someone who “loved reading the Sun-Times and Wall Street Journal.”

Moriah Ishmael will be honored as “someone who was very respectful and a joy to be around. All Moriah wanted was a place to call his own.”

Will Kelly “was a good friend who helped many people.”

Wesley Sharp “was a kind, respectful and patient man” who will be “missed dearly by friends.”

William Carter died of cancer.

Durell Thomas “was hardworking and just looking for a safe place to stay.” Rhonda died of MRSA. Stanislaw Gal “left behind a wife and kids.”

But sadly even that scant information is often unavailable.

In some cases, all that’s known is when the person died: Ray W. and Nancy in January, Yacob G. in May, Leonard S. in July, C. Glover in August, John G. in September, Christina Kostoff and Patrick S. in October, Tommy Irby in December.

Then there are those who will be recognized only by name: Timothy Griffin, Henry Hartage, Terry King, Andre Perry, Larry Singleton, Angela Williams, Lewis Frost, Bethelynne Johnson, Michael Erl, Rick Berry, Barbara McHenry, Renard Parrish, Claude Michaelis and Kevin Lawson.

As someone who believes every person has a story to tell, that always bothers me.

There’s a common perception of homeless people as dangerous. Some can be, of course, but more often they are victims.

“Our guests are vulnerable. They are vulnerable in so many ways,” said Ed Jacob of Franciscan Outreach, one of the city’s leading providers of homeless services and a sponsor of the memorial service.

“It’s not just exposure to the elements. It’s not just the cold. They don’t have the stability. They don’t have the sense of security that you and I would have,” Jacob said.

Tonight’s memorial at Old St. Pat’s, 700 W. Adams, is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

I learned late Monday of another dead homeless man, Perry Brisby, 49, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Dec. 4 in the 2000 block of South Emerald. He died Sunday at Stroger Hospital.

They’ll need to light another candle.

Homeless Memorial set for Tuesday, Dec. 19

For National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a coalition of homeless service providers and advocates will host a candlelight vigil and memorial service to remember Chicagoans who died this year without a home.

As the nights get longer and colder, we remember that homelessness is a human struggle. Hundreds will join us for this moving service, a solemn reminder of those who have little to call their own.

Thirty-four people – 28 men and six women – were remembered, as well as “those whose names are known only to God.”

 

WHEN & WHERE:

Harmony, Hope & Healing sings at the 2016 memorial service.

Tuesday, December 19, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Old St. Pat’s Church, 700 W. Adams Street, Chicago (free of charge)

WHY:

An analysis of census data by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless showed 82,212 Chicagoans were homeless in 2015. Nationally, over the course of a year, 2.5 million to 3.5 million people experience homelessness.

ORGANIZED BY:

This event is affiliated with National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, one of more than 150 events across the U.S. organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless.

This Chicago service was first organized in 2010 by CCH, Ignation Spirituality Project, and Old St. Pat’s Church. Homeless attendees are offered a dinner prior to the service. The Homeless Memorial is now coordinated by these six Chicago organizations:

  • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless advocates for and with homeless youth, families and adults, including a legal aid program serving the needs of students, youth and adults experiencing homelessness.
  • Franciscan Outreach  provides shelter, case management, shower facilities and laundry services to hundreds of men, women and children in the model of respect and dignity of St. Francis of Assisi.
  • Harmony, Hope & Healing provides creative, therapeutic and educational music programs, offering emotional and spiritual support to homeless and underserved women, men and children in the Chicago area.
  • Ignatian Spirituality Project works to end homelessness by providing Ignatian retreats to men and women who are homeless and in recovery.
  • Old St. Patrick’s Church extends hospitality to all that find the church on their path and to serve the life and work of the laity in the world.
  • New Moms enables, empowers and equips at-risk adolescent parents and their children through services and mentoring based on Christian values.

For more information, contact Associate Director of Community Organizing Wayne Richard.

Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown: Report says homeless counts miss the mark

By Mark Brown, columnist

One night each January, hundreds of volunteers spread out across Chicago in an effort to count the city’s homeless population.

This task, known as the annual Point-In-Time Count, is replicated in communities across the country under guidelines proscribed by the federal government.

The count is then used to apportion federal dollars for programs benefiting the homeless.

That process is deeply flawed, resulting in a significant undercount of America’s homeless population and in poorly informed public policy, according to a report issued Wednesday by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

The national findings echo concerns often raised here by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless — and occasionally amplified by me — regarding how the extent of homelessness in Chicago is greatly understated.

The problem is the Point-In-Time Count recognizes only homeless people who can be found that particular night, either living on the street or staying in a homeless shelter.

One obvious shortcoming: Many homeless people on the street try to avoid being seen, either out of personal safety concerns or fear they will be forced to leave their hidden place of shelter.

Less obvious is that the federal count also leaves out the much larger number of homeless families and individuals who live “doubled up” with relatives or friends because they have nowhere else to go, often creating unstable situations that are worse than being in a homeless shelter.

Last year’s Point-In-Time Count for Chicago yielded a tally of 5,657 homeless persons.

But as I reported in April, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless analyzed U.S. Census data to better calculate the “doubled up” households and concluded that 82,212 people were homeless in Chicago at some point during 2015. The coalition is currently updating its estimate.

The report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty also notes federal guidelines fail to take into account that homelessness is often transitory, with people going in and out of homelessness, meaning that many more individuals will become homeless over the course of a year than on any given night.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the annual count, announced Wednesday a national homeless population of 553,742 in 2017.

That’s an increase of less than 1 percent over 2016, but the first increase since 2010, HUD officials said. Most of the increase was attributed to unsheltered homeless people living on the West Coast.

I’ve always made peace with the Point-In-Time Count on the basis that it is what it is.

There is value to a physical count, even one that is flawed. Tangible results are preferable to estimates. If you understand the annual street count is only showing you the tip of the iceberg, then you’re good to go.

Where it can go wrong is if public officials make decisions on the basis of the count, declaring homelessness to be down, when a lower count actually may have been due to other factors such as changes in the weather from one year to the next.

The city of Chicago reported that its 2017 homeless count was a 4 percent reduction from the 5,889 homeless individuals tallied in 2016. But a closer reading revealed the city used a more stringent methodology in 2017 for counting homeless people sleeping overnight on the CTA, which accounted for much of the drop. The weather was also milder on the night of the 2017 count.

A national homeless advocacy group reported Wednesday that the federal government’s method of counting homeless people results in a serious undercount. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

A city spokesperson said Chicago complies with HUD’s requirements for the Point-In-Time Count, but “also embraces different methodologies to ensure we have the most comprehensive data on this vulnerable population.”

Those extra steps have included participating in a national research and policy initiative focused on runaway, homeless and unstably housed youth, she said.

Chicago’s 2018 homeless count is scheduled for the night of Jan. 25. Results are made public months later.

When they are released, keep in mind you’re only seeing part of the picture.