New youth health attorney, Equal Justice Works fellow join the legal staff

The Law Project at CCH welcomed two attorneys to its legal team in September.

From left, Alyssa Phillips and Tanya Gassenheimer (Photo by Claire Sloss)

Tanya T. Gassenheimer serves as the Youth Futures health attorney. Alyssa Phillips holds a two-year Equal Justice Works fellowship, focused on assisting children and teens facing educational barriers.  Continue reading New youth health attorney, Equal Justice Works fellow join the legal staff

Homeless Uptown viaduct residents file lawsuit against the city

Complaint contends city redesign of viaducts discriminates against homeless people

Homeless residents of the Uptown Wilson and Lawrence viaducts, through their attorneys, filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago on Thursday. Plaintiffs Carol Aldape and Thomas Gordon, supported by attorneys from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLP, and Uptown People’s Law Center, argue that the city’s re-design of the viaducts violates the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights because it “discriminates against them solely because they are homeless.”  Continue reading Homeless Uptown viaduct residents file lawsuit against the city

New Illinois law allows school transportation funds to be reallocated for homeless student housing

By Cydney Salvador, Media Intern

An Illinois bill permitting the use of educational funds to secure housing for homeless children has been signed into law.

House Bill 261 will allow school districts to reallocate funds dedicated to homeless students’ transportation costs to instead pay for housing assistance, rent, and security deposits. CCH endorsed the measure, sponsored by State Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg). Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the bill on August 25. Continue reading New Illinois law allows school transportation funds to be reallocated for homeless student housing

Homeless students have special rights to school enrollment, transportation and fee waivers

By Patricia Nix-Hodes, Director of The Law Project at CCH

As students head back to school, it’s important to point out that children and teens without housing have special rights to school enrollment, transportation and school fee waivers.   Continue reading Homeless students have special rights to school enrollment, transportation and fee waivers

213 CCH leaders joined Chicago Fight for $15 at one of city’s largest fast food strikes

By Cydney Salvador, Media Intern

This Labor Day, Chicago witnessed one of the largest fast food strikes in city history as part of the Fight for $15 movement, with the help of homeless workers and leaders from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Labor Day 2017 (Photo by Jaime Schmitz)

In the U.S and around the world, minimum-wage workers in healthcare, fast food, janitorial services, and customer services went on strike during the September 4 National Day of Action. Almost 5,000 people rallied in support of strikers, according to Chicago Fight for $15.  Continue reading 213 CCH leaders joined Chicago Fight for $15 at one of city’s largest fast food strikes

Legislation to expand record-sealing is signed into law

Key legislation to expand record-sealing in Illinois has been signed into law after advocacy by the CCH Reentry Project and RROCI coalition partners.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 2373 at an August 24 ceremony hosted by the Safer Foundation, a Reentry Project member.

Effective immediately,  HB2373 expands record-sealing eligibility to more felonies, three years after completion of sentence. Before, only nine felonies were eligible for sealing.  Continue reading Legislation to expand record-sealing is signed into law

CCH welcomes our new development associate, Christy Savellano

Christy Savellano

CCH welcomes Christy Savellano to the staff, serving as our new development associate. 

We asked Christy to introduce herself. 

My social work lens and experiences have shaped who I am and what I stand for, continuing to weave my passions in fighting and promoting social justice and social work together.  Continue reading CCH welcomes our new development associate, Christy Savellano

Chicago Tribune: Homeless group close to suit over bike path plan in Uptown

By Mary Wisniewski

The more than three dozen people who live in tents under the Lake Shore Drive bridges at Wilson and Lawrence avenues know better than anyone that the structures need repair.  Continue reading Chicago Tribune: Homeless group close to suit over bike path plan in Uptown

Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown: Homeless tent city residents given 30 days to scram

By Mark Brown, columnist

As I keep saying, if only they knew where to go.

“It’s crunch time now,” said Louis Jones, the street savvy leader of the Wilson viaduct group who expects the situation to “get a whole lot worse” before it gets better.

Louis Jones, who lives in a tent beneath Lake Shore Drive at Wilson Avenue, is among 45 homeless people who will be displaced by construction projects to rehab viaducts over Wilson and Lawrence. File Photo. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Although long anticipated, the deadline will add to the normal stress of living on the street as the homeless contend with relocating.

With backing from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the people occupying the Uptown viaducts are asking the city to provide them with permanent housing.

So far, there is no indication the city expects to be able to do that.

Counts of the homeless population at the two locations vary.

Lisa Morrison Butler, commissioner of the city Department of Family and Support Services, said her outreach workers counted 43 tents and 25 people on their last visit, leading her to estimate a population of 25-43.

Jones, known on the street as Abdul, said the average nightly count is closer to 50.

“I’ve got nine new clients in the last week and a half,” he said, adopting social worker-speak. Jones noted that two of the recent arrivals had just been released from Cook County Jail. “Wherever they’re running people off in the city, they’re coming here.”

Morrison Butler said the city may be able to house 19 of these individuals with affordable housing openings that went unused during a 2016 pilot program aimed at vacating the two tent encampments. The tent residents are being evaluated to determine who is most in need of housing, she said.

Most of the 75 individuals living in the encampments at the start of the 2016 pilot program were relocated, but others moved in to take their place.

In addition to the 19 openings for temporary or permanent housing, Morrison Butler said the city should have beds available in its homeless shelters for the tent residents.

But people living under the viaducts often refuse to live in shelters, preferring the homeless encampments for a variety of reasons ranging from having more freedom to feeling more safe.

The tents have been a point of tension with some neighbors who complain the homeless are blocking access to Lake Michigan.

I wish those people could see how hard Jones tries to run a tight ship, ordering his homeless neighbors to clean up their messes and to control rowdiness.

In a strange way, the camps have performed a valuable community service by putting homelessness front and center on the Lakefront instead of buried in the city’s nooks and crannies where nobody sees it.

Lawyers from the Coalition for the Homeless said they have yet to meet with the city in response to their written threat to file a lawsuit over the construction project.

Nobody denies the need for the repair work.

But the coalition contends the design of the project, which will place bike lanes on the sidewalk where homeless people now have tents, is a violation of the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act because it’s purpose is to prevent them from returning.

The city denies any such intent, pointing to a bicycling plan released in 2012 that calls for Lawrence to be a major bike route connecting to the Lakefront Path.

Another factor in the drama ahead is a group called Uptown Tent City Organizers, which helped supply many of the tents the homeless people are using.

The activist group pushes a more aggressively political agenda, but also has been effective in highlighting the plight of the homeless.

I’ve seen this movie before. It never ends well for the little guy.

CCH statement: Appalled by the city of Chicago’s 30-day eviction notice at Wilson and Lawrence viaducts

August 18, 2017

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is appalled by the city of Chicago’s decision to issue a 30-day eviction notice today to the residents of the tent encampments under the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts on Lake Shore Drive, in advance of reconstruction. This notice comes without the city providing permanent housing to the people they are evicting from the only home they have and with the premeditated intention to make it impossible for people experiencing homelessness to use the viaducts in the future for protection.

The residents of the encampments do not oppose rebuilding of the city’s infrastructure, nor do they want to live on the streets. They currently live under these viaducts because they have no other permanent housing options. The residents want the same thing anyone else does – the chance to have a stable home.  Continue reading CCH statement: Appalled by the city of Chicago’s 30-day eviction notice at Wilson and Lawrence viaducts