CCH enacts ‘Three Steps Home’ legislative package for homeless and at-risk youth

Three bills to assist homeless youth — a CCH legislative package called Three Steps Home — have been enacted. All will take effect January 1, 2018.

Two measures were passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. They will allow minors to access transitional housing as well as obtain counseling without requiring the consent of a parent or guardian.

A third measure, the College Hunger bill, faced an amendatory veto by the governor and was in the process of being reintroduced. But the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) instead adopted a rule change in November that will allow low-income vocational students at community colleges to apply for SNAP food benefits.

State Legislative Director Niya Kelly spearheaded advocacy by CCH, including support from the 38-agencies on its Youth Committee. Services to homeless and at-risk youth have often been limited due to their young age and vulnerable circumstances.

HB3212 – Housing for Homeless Minors

Until HB3212 takes effect on January 1, homeless minors can stay in a youth transitional housing program for only 21 days before they must return home, move in with a relative, or go into the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Often, youth cycle through their 21 days, leave for a few days, and ultimately return to the program.

This legislation establishes a pathway for 16- and 17-year-old minors to find stable housing. They would be permitted to consent to their own housing and services with a DCFS-licensed youth transitional housing program when parental consent cannot be obtained. CCH worked with homeless youth service providers, Illinois Collaboration on Youth, and state agencies in drafting the legislation. Sponsors were State Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) and State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).

HB3212/SB1994 Fact Sheet

HB3709 – Increasing Access to Counseling Services

Youth can struggle in discussing their problems with parents or guardians. For this reason, Illinois law allows minors over age 12 to consent to counseling on their own. But until HB3709 takes effect on January 1,  young people are limited to only five sessions, too few for youth that may not be ready to talk to their parents about personal struggles.

HB3709 increased the allotted number of sessions from five 45-minute sessions to eight 90-minute sessions. For minors unable to get parental consent, due to homelessness or possible dangers in getting parental consent, a counselor would be allowed to continue services after eight sessions. Consent would not be required for youth who reach age 17.

The legislation was drafted by CCH’s then-youth health attorney, Graham Bowman.

Said Dr. Niranjan S. Karnik, a leading psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center, “Providers are in a good position to help heal families by working with youth who are running away, homeless or otherwise estranged. This legislation expands the possibility for youth to seek help from licensed providers, get short-term support, and it often leads to reunification with their families.”

Increasing the number of counseling visits gives youth the opportunity to build rapport with a counselor, giving youth a safe space to begin healing. Sponsors were Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester).

HB3709 Fact Sheet

SB351- Food Insecurity on College Campuses/College Hunger Bill

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

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP food stamps program, can reduce food insecurity, but students attending college half-time or more have been ineligible. This legislation allows low-income community college students enrolled in vocational-track programs to further their education while having food security.

As HB3211, the SNAP bill passed the House, 85-25, in March, and the Senate, 50-1, in May. Gov. Rauner later issued an amendatory veto, saying he did not believe the Illinois Student Assistance Commission should be required to assist with implementation.

So a new bill – Senate Bill 351 – was introduced this fall. Called the “College Hunger bill,” it passed the Illinois Senate by a 54-1 vote on Oct. 25. But the measure failed to progress in 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. An estimated 40,000 students could qualify.

CCH advocated this measure with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights. Sponsors were Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) and Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield).

HB3211 Fact Sheet

Many of the 38 youth-serving agencies on CCH’s Homeless Youth Committee endorsed these statewide measures. Twenty-five member agencies are located in Chicago, 13 in the suburbs and downstate. Marc USA supports Chicago homeless with pro bono campaign

By Larissa Faw

Marc USA is seeking to help Chicago homeless this holiday season with its pro bono advocacy campaign that raises awareness and urges financial support for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Launching this week to coincide with the national Homeless Awareness Week, the creative proclaims, “Let’s make Chicago a 4-star city for everyone” by leveraging Chicago’s 4-star flag that symbolizes for most residents the city’s top quality of life.

Ads show well-known Chicago neighborhoods that would likely rate “four stars” are contrasted with the “half-star rated” viaducts and street corners that serve as homes for thousands of Chicagoans. The spot ends with a call-to-action seeking donations.

Reel Chicago names Marc USA 4-star city video its “Reel Ad of the Week”

The integrated campaign includes 30- and 60-second videos running as broadcast and digital PSAs as well as print and outdoor versions.

A mobile donation platform supports a text-to-donate message on outdoor, print and TV components.  There’s also a link in the digital executions.

The goal is to make it easy for people to act when they see the campaign, says the agency. It’s about small donations from many people.

This work was driven inside the agency by several Chicago-based MARCers who were deeply affected by the sights of homelessness in the city during last year’s colder than usual winter. Similar to last year’s Know No about sexual consent that evolved in Chicago, associates in each office are encouraged to take on causes that matter to them.


CCH honor educators, political leaders at 2017 victory celebration

By Mary Tarullo, Associate Director of Policy

Eugene Jones receives the John “Juancho” Donahue Award

Community leaders, board members, coalition partners, funders, donors, and staff of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless celebrated CCH victories tonight at a 2017 victory celebration at Chicago’s Grace Place.

CCH honored nine educators and political leaders crucial to making these accomplishments a reality. We also commended generous support from the Bridgeview Bank Group. Continue reading CCH honor educators, political leaders at 2017 victory celebration

StreetLight Chicago marks its 1st year: 1,214 downloads and a new desktop version

Today marks the first year of StreetLight Chicago! This free mobile app for homeless youth is a joint project of the Young Invincibles and the Youth Futures legal aid clinic at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, with generous support from the VNA Foundation.

StreetLight Chicago offers a database of resources for homeless and unaccompanied youth. The app provides youth with a centralized list of drop-in centers, shelters, health clinics, food pantries and services, including Youth Futures. Occasional push notifications are issued via the app when weather or program advisories are needed. Continue reading StreetLight Chicago marks its 1st year: 1,214 downloads and a new desktop version

Farewell to Associate Director of Organizing Hannah Willage

By Hannah Willage, Associate Director of Organizing

This week marks the end of my 10 years working for Chicago Coalition for the Homeless as I move on to work for Interfaith Youth Core.

I feel so grateful for the amazing people I have had the opportunity to work with during my time at CCH. The leaders and staff have had a great impact on me. Together we have been able to create change. We have learned together, grown together, and educated the community and people in power together. Continue reading Farewell to Associate Director of Organizing Hannah Willage

‘4-Star City’ campaign calls attention to homelessness in Chicago

Launching Friday, a new integrated ad campaign seeks to create awareness and empathy for Chicagoans who cope with homelessness while living on the street.

Developed pro bono by marketing communications firm MARC USA, the integrated campaign plays on Chicago’s popular 4-star city flag. One of the best-known and most visible city flags in the country – found on businesses, front porches, T-shirts, and even tattoos – Chicago’s 4-star flag promotes the city’s capacity to offer a top quality of life.

The “4-Star City” campaign features 30- and 60-second videos running as broadcast and digital PSAs, with print and outdoor versions. Continue reading ‘4-Star City’ campaign calls attention to homelessness in Chicago

Niani fought for the education she deserves

Niani Scott anticipates heading back to school each fall. Admitted to a dual degree program, she now studies journalism and political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Her love of writing sparked during high school, when Niani won awards for writing “poetry focused on social injustice.”

And it was at high school that she was personally impacted by injustice.

The summer before starting at Plainfield East, Niani and her mother became homeless. A friend who lived nearby let them move in, doubling-up to avoid a shelter. Continue reading Niani fought for the education she deserves

Slip in support of the College Hunger bill

Nov. 9 Update:

Thanks to the more than 100 people who, on short notice, slipped in support of the College Hunger bill advocated by CCH, Heartland Alliance, and the Shriver Center.

SB351 passed out of the Illinois House Human Services Committee by a 10-0 vote on Nov. 8. We’re disappointed to report that despite strong and vocal and bi-partisan support, including Gov. Rauner, the bill did not progress through the legislative process before the 2-week veto session concluded.

We are confident that the College Hunger bill will progress in the 2018 legislative session. Your support makes a difference!


By Niya Kelly, State Legislative Director

Please take two minutes to show support for the College Hunger bill (Senate Bill 351) before it is called by the House Human Services Committee for a hearing Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m.

SB351 would provide assistance to vocational-track students who, but for their enrollment in community college, would be eligible for food assistance in the form of SNAP benefits. Up to 40,000 students would be helped.

This bill ensures that students won’t have to make the choice between buying food and continuing their education.

Legislators check to see how many people slip in support of a bill, so please slip in support by clicking THE LINK below.

Instructions for filing a slip:

* If you do not represent or work for an organization, then type “Self”
* If you don’t have title, type “None” in that field
Fill this out if you are representing a group, organization or business (make sure that you have their permission before filling this out). Otherwise, type “None.”
Click on Record of Appearance Only

The Illinois Senate passed SB351 on October 25 by a 54-1 vote.
Advocating with CCH for the College Hunger bill are the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Heartland Alliance.

Homeless and housing cutbacks contested during state budget hearing

By Niya Kelly, State Legislative Director

Despite the General Assembly ending a record-setting two-year state budget impasse, Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed mid-year cutbacks to vital human services, including homeless and housing service funding.

The governor has authority to effect FY18 cutbacks in Illinois without further legislative approval.

Homeless and housing line items are funded through several streams, including the General Revenue Fund and funds dedicated to homeless and housing services. The governor proposed a 5% cut across the board to General Revenue. If enacted by the governor, the proposed cutbacks would impact FY18 state contracts already signed with providers.

Proposed cutbacks include:

  • $227,000 to Homeless Youth, a 4% cutback to a $5.5 million budget
  • $51,000 to Homeless Prevention, cutting 1% from a $4.9 million budget
  • $671,000 to Supportive and Transitional Housing, cutting 2% from total funding of $30 million

To put a face to the proposed cuts, the House Human Services – Appropriations Committee met Nov. 1 to hear from service providers and people receiving services.

Imploring Rauner to reconsider mid-year cuts, Connections for the Homeless was among those that testified. The Evanston provider is active in the State Network at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

“Any cut of any size impacts those most in need,” said Sue Loellbach, Connections’ Manager of Advocacy. “Our organization has cut everywhere we can throughout the budget impasse.”

Connections for the Homeless provides a variety of services, including homeless prevention grants to households threatened with eviction and foreclosure. It is easier and cost-effective to help a family stay housed rather than attempting to rehouse them once they’ve become homeless.

A family that becomes homeless needs emergency shelter and supportive services. The family, especially the children, experiences the trauma of losing their home. Securing new housing later becomes more difficult with an eviction or foreclosure on a family’s credit history.

Homeless and housing services suffered greatly when the budget impasse dragged on. Service providers and their clients not only deserve their funding but also the stability of knowing that what they were promised in their signed contracts is the funding they will receive.