By Mark Brown, Chicago Sun-Times columnist
There were only two students identified as homeless at Prosser Career Academy in 1996 when the principal made Patricia Scott the school’s liaison to a new federal program for Students in Temporary Living Situations.
The number jumped to eight soon after that, and at its high point, ballooned all the way to 81 homeless kids.
At the end of this past school year, Prosser counted 68 homeless students among its 1,400 enrollees, 26 of whom were seniors.
“They all graduated,” Scott told me Wednesday. “I’m very proud of that.”
That group of 26 seniors will be the last class of homeless students Scott shepherds to their high school degree at Prosser.
On Friday, she was among 1,000 Chicago Public Schools employees to learn they were getting laid off.
Scott is not a teacher. She’s a clerk, one of 521 support staff included in the layoff tallies.
When we talk about CPS layoffs, we usually concern ourselves primarily with teachers. But Scott is a good example of why we shouldn’t overlook what’s lost when many of those support jobs are eliminated.
During her 20 years as the Northwest Side school’s homeless liaison, Scott earned a reputation as a fierce advocate for her students, not only helping them receive the free school supplies and bus passes to which they are entitled, but also going the extra mile by supplying the mothering that so many of them desperately need.
“You could see how she cared so deeply for her students and how they respected and trusted her,” said Hannah Willage, an organizer with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “It is heartbreaking to know her students will not have her to return to and that she is one of 1,000 staff and teachers impacted by the layoffs. These layoffs hit homeless students hard.”
It was Willage who alerted me to Scott’s layoff, which I mention in case prospective employers get the idea she is the type to run to the press. She’s not.
But she did agree to speak with me. I arrived at her door the same moment as the mailman delivering the registered letter with official notification of her layoff.
“They say they’re putting me in a recall pool,” Scott said after taking a moment to read it. She didn’t sound very optimistic.
At age 57, Scott is concerned about finding another job, but not as concerned as she is about the homeless students under her care, many of whom stay in touch with her long after leaving school.
She knows the time and difficulty involved in building relationships with homeless students, many of whom don’t trust adults because of traumas suffered in their young lives.
“I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for her,” said Liz Rodriguez, 27, who just completed a bachelor’s degree in information technology.
Rodriguez told me she was kicked out of the house at 13 and eventually came to live with an older sister, but was left homeless again when the sister moved out of town.
She credits Scott with guiding her through her senior year and giving her a “base” on which to build a life. The same goes for her husband, Jose, a U.S. Marine who was also in the Prosser homeless program, Rodriguez said.
Jasmine Edwards, 26, was put out of her home at 16, and says Scott not only raised money to help her pay the security deposit on an apartment but also gave her a vision of what she could accomplish with an education.
“She’s been like a mother. She never judges you,” said Edwards, who turned a part-time high school job into being a Wal-Mart store manager in Indiana.
If there are any principals in need of a strong candidate to take over their school’s homeless program, I know where to find one.
Registrations are available as the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless brings its annual golf outing back to the Willmette Golf Club for a second year.
Set for Monday, August 8, the event kicks off with a grilled lunch at 12 noon and tee-off at 1:30 p.m. After golfing, participants will enjoy cocktails and a dinner reception, with the opportunity to bid on fabulous silent auction prizes.
This year’s outing is again presented by our good friends at American Chartered Bank.
Dedicated to the memory of John “Juancho” Donahue, CCH’s 14th annual golf outing raises critical funds for its work to curb homelessness in the Chicago area. Continue reading Registrations available for August 8 golf outing
First launched in May 2015, last year’s six-month campaign raised an impressive $21,150 to support our work on behalf of homeless families, youth and adults.
Through Hearts for the Homeless, Bridgeview Bank will donate $50 to CCH when you do one of the following:
- Open a new personal checking account with direct deposit
- Open a new personal savings or money market account with $10,000 or more
- Deposit $10,000 or more into an existing personal savings or money market account
To thank its clients, Bridgeview Bank also deposits $100 to each qualifying account that participates in the program. Continue reading Bridgeview Bank offers second Hearts for the Homeless program
Editor’s Note: Jayme Robinson and Ashley Allen are long-time members of the CCH Education Committee. A new college graduate, Jayme joined the CCH staff in June as a VISTA organizer.
Listen to the story audio HERE.
By Bill Healy
Jayme Robinson is 21 and a college graduate. That’s no small feat, considering that she became homeless her senior year of high school.
Earlier this year, Chicago Public Schools updated its policies so that homeless students are now entitled to enrollment without proof-of-residence or guardianship. It also gives these students access to tutoring services, uniforms, and fees waivers, among other things.
Robinson came to the StoryCorps booth at the Chicago Cultural Center with her mentor, Ashley Allen, who used to be homeless as well. They spoke about their experiences growing up, and how that translates into the work they do today, advocating on behalf of the 20,000 homeless students in Chicago Public Schools.
StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. These excerpts, edited by WBEZ, present some of our favorites from the current visit, as well as from previous trips.
We value our partners’ commitment, and invite all organizations who work alongside us in the fight against homelessness to renew their membership with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
Because of the ongoing state budget crisis, CCH has waived its $100 membership dues in 2016.
Please complete this form to join us as a member this year.
CCH does not receive government funding. That means when we push for government support, we are advocating for the providers across Illinois that help people who are homeless and at-risk. This year we have been advocating for a state budget that includes funding for programs that shelter, house and assist homeless people.
In addition to our advocacy work, our community organizers and youth attorneys run outreach at 35 shelters, transitional housing, school and drop-in programs each month. Our Statewide Network mobilizes providers and their clients in nine suburbs and downstate cities, including Aurora, Waukegan and Rockford. We mobilize strong coalitions on issues that affect homeless people, including our Reentry Project and our Youth Committee comprised of 36 providers from across Illinois.
To renew your Organizational Membership, complete this form. Members are acknowledged on the CCH website and promoted on Facebook (8,600+ followers) and Twitter (4,400+).
Questions? Contact Assistant Development Director Claire Sloss.
By Claire Sloss, Assistant Development Director
Homeless youth and program staff joined CCH outside some of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s nine luxury homes this morning, serving free coffee and urging his neighbors and passersby to voice their support for homeless youth funding.
The governor owns two condos at 340 on the Park, a posh high-rise at 340 E. Randolph Street, across from Maggie Daley Park.
Twenty-five backpacks lined up along a meticulously trimmed planter outside the high-rise represented the 25,000 homeless Illinois youth who face losing shelter because of the 10-month state budget impasse. More and more programs that shelter, house and counsel youth have been forced to lay off staff and cutback services. A few have already closed. Continue reading Homeless youth ask Gov. Rauner’s neighbors to voice support for funding
By Mike Krauser
Homeless youth and advocates gathered outside one of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s homes on Thursday, to call attention to the state budget impasse and its impact on programs for the homeless.
The group lined up backpacks outside 340 on the Park, a high-rise condo building across the street from Maggie Daley Park. Rauner owns a condo there, and organizers of the demonstration said the governor uses that condo only for storage.
“We are out here in front of one of Governor Rauner’s nine homes. He owns nine luxury homes, and yet there are thousands of homeless people around the state that have no homes, and the only places that they have to stay are in jeopardy,” said Julie Dworkin, policy director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
The 25 backpacks they laid out on the sidewalk represent the 25,000 homeless children in Illinois. For homeless youth, backpacks often carry everything they own.
“We’re comparing the only storage they have to the storage in this luxury high-rise,” Dworkin said.
Kayla Evans said she was homeless for two years before getting into a shelter, and getting help.
“Our backpack is our sense of survival. I carried a pocketknife, just in case somebody tried to attack us,” she said.
Evans said she knows a homeless person who intentionally committed a crime just to go to jail, “because they knew they’d have housing and food.”
“I thought that was pretty said,” she said.
Advocates said programs that help the homeless in Illinois are in danger of having to shut down, because the state budget stalemate has left them without vital funding.
By Niya Kelly, Policy Specialist
As the budget crisis ravages social services across the state, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless traveled to Springfield April 5 with more than 100 homeless youths, Niles Township high school students, and service providers.
The group protested both inside and outside the Executive Mansion to bring attention to their message: “Governor Rauner needs to support legislation that would immediately release funding to ensure homeless youth have a place to lay their heads at night.”
Homeless youth met with the governor himself in February. They recounted the circumstances that lead to their homelessness, how they connected with their service providers, and where they would be without this assistance. The governor listened, promising that he would consider supporting HB4955/SB2603, legislation that would immediately appropriate funding for homeless services in Illinois. Continue reading Youth and service providers protest inside the Executive Mansion