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.
Associate Law Project Director Beth Malik will deliver the conference’s opening remarks on Sunday at 8:10 a.m. In her 10 years leading CCH’s Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic, Ms. Malik has represented thousands of homeless Chicago youth with civil legal needs, including access to schools and shelter.
The CCH-managed HomeWorks campaign will be explained in a Sunday session at 2:45 p.m. 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 almost two years for a stronger homeless education policy, adopted in 2016 by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
They will also explain HomeWorks’ advocacy to create a program that this school year will house 100 homeless families from six Chicago 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.
HomeWorks partners are the AIDS Foundation, Beacon Therapeutic, Catholic Charities, CSH, Facing Forward to End Homelessness, Heartland Alliance, Primo Center for Women and Children, and Unity Parenting and Counseling.
In a Tuesday session, (10:30 a.m.), 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.
Panelists will be Beth Malik, Staff Attorney Diane O’Connell, and Youth Health Attorney Tanya Gassenheimer.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
In a chaotic early morning scene Sept. 18, city authorities evicted persons who had been residing beneath Lake Shore Drive viaducts at Wilson and Lawrence avenues on the North Lakefront.Residents and advocates had expected the eviction; city officials had announced the deadline a month earlier, but, according to residents, they had not been forthcoming with any new housing options. Many LGBT activists have been working on this issue for several months.
Residents had earlier moved their tents out from under the viaducts, taking them to the parkways a block west. City workers erected fences blocking off areas beneath the bridge. At 8:30 a.m., members of the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services arrived and began talking to residents, telling them that they had to take their tents down.
In a statement to reporters, Rev. Fred Kinsey of Unity Lutheran Church said that concerned activists and residents “take this seriously. People are being pushed out of their homes. … We know this struggle is going to continue in the weeks to come.”
“The city’s solution is to put people out of sight and out of mind,” added Ryne Poelker of Tent City Organizers, who called the situation “a true representation of the failures of Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel and Alderman [James] Cappleman.”
Most Tent City residents were unsure of where to go next. Resident Tom Gordon said he had just moved his tent to Lawrence Avenue and Marine Drive. Officials there had refused to let the residents actually erect the tents.
“They told us they’ve got to lay flat—we can’t set them up,” Gordon said. “… They didn’t want it to look like we were moving in, but we are moving in. We’ve got no place else to go. They took the bridge from us, because they need to repair it. This is the only safe place we can go.”
Mark Saulys was one of a handful of residents who had been transferred into a subsidized apartment through a pilot program the city launched last year. He lamented that only a small number of residents had been helped.
“Twenty years ago, I was homeless,” said Saulys. “I was always a poor laborer. But I got a job and I rented a room at an SRO. Nobody helped me at all. But that job is gone and that SRO is gone. It’s a different world today. A lot of people need some help.”
Another resident, Sean, is an openly gay man who has lived under the viaducts for a few months. He was priced out of where he had been living in Lakeview, and was experiencing homelessness even as he was working. He said that he was on his way to look at an apartment that morning.
“There is money for the things that we need that would be more of a comfort,” Sean said. “… Quit harassing us. Quit using tax dollars for your little cronies to drive through the viaduct and honk their horns and clang their loud machines at three or four o’clock in the morning. As a working person, those are my dollars that are going to that.”
Adam Gianforte, who has been living under the Lawrence Avenue viaduct for five months, said, “Sometimes we think of the city as an ‘entity,’ but these are the people who make up the city. These are our neighbors. When you have a friend who is homeless, it’s hard to ignore them, because they are your friend. … These people are the city.”
The press conference was called by homeless residents of the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and ONE Northside.
Late in the morning residents were in Courtroom 2508 of the Daley Center regarding their complaint against the city of Chicago, pursuant to the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act, trying to stop the city’s evictions.
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.