Amended complaint alleges discrimination against homeless people in the Uptown neighborhood

City of Chicago endangering cyclists, violating Bill of Rights for the Homeless

New bike lakes under Lake Shore Drive solely to discriminate against homeless people in Uptown, attorneys allege

Today, an amended complaint was filed alleging discrimination against homeless people in the Uptown neighborhood by the city of Chicago.

Lawyers from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Uptown People’s Law Center, and Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLP filed the complaint on behalf of the homeless residents of Uptown who took shelter under the viaducts before the construction. The encampment was destroyed by police in September to make way for bridge repair.

This week, the city of Chicago painted bike lanes on the sidewalk under the Lake Shore Drive overpasses on Wilson and Lawrence Avenues. Putting bike lanes on sidewalks is against the city of Chicago’s own policies and is known to be dangerous for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. The lawyers allege the city is doing this specifically to prevent homeless people from taking shelter under the viaducts, which is discriminatory and in violation of the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless.

“People riding bikes are going to die because of this change,” said Alan Mills, attorney and executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center. “The city is so keen to prevent homeless people from creating their community that they are willing to risk the lives of cyclists. This bike lane is bad for homeless people, and bad for cyclists.”

“Rather than providing housing and services, the city has chosen to respond to our homeless clients by denying them access to public sidewalks and the modest shelter provided by the viaducts. We believe that there is no legitimate reason to put the bike lanes on the sidewalks here, and we intend to prove that the design is a pretext for discrimination against homeless people in Uptown,” said Diane O’Connell, staff attorney with the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Youth Futures presented as a model at the Equal Justice Conference

CCH’s Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic was presented as a model during the recent Equal Justice Conference in San Diego. The national conference is sponsored by the American Bar Association and the Public Service and National Legal Aid & Defense Association.

Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes discussed the CCH legal clinic that represents more than 400 homeless and unaccompanied youths a year. She was among the presenters for a May 11 panel on “Using Behavioral and Social Sciences as a Next Step to Improving Legal Services.”

From left, Joseph Sullivan, Adam Murray, Patricia Nix-Hodes, and Sophie Bryan

Other panelists included Adam Murray, executive director of the Inner City Law Center in Los Angeles; Sophie Bryan, executive director of Philadelphia VIP; and Joseph Sullivan, counsel and director of pro bono programs at Pepper Hamilton LLP in Philadelphia.

“It was great to share the work done by Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic, which shows a model of providing legal services that builds trust and removes barriers for young people when seeking legal services,” Patricia said.

The Equal Justice Conference brings the legal community together to address the delivery of legal aid to poor and low-income people who need legal assistance. More than 1,000 pro bono and legal service program staff, private lawyers, and other legal professionals attended the 3-day conference.



American Writers Museum hosts Horizons showcase

Director of Organizing Wayne Richard

Horizons welcomed an enthusiastic audience to its 2018 writers showcase. Held at the American Writers Museum, our May 22 event featured original poetry read by homeless shelter-resident authors, most of them mothers and their older children.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is grateful to our city’s newest museum for generous sponsorship of this year’s showcase. Opened last May, the American Writers Museum, 180 North Michigan, was voted Illinois’ best attraction in a USA Today Readers Choice poll and named one of the world’s 10 best new museums by Fodor’s.

“American writing happens in homeless shelters as surely as it does in any writing classroom,” said AWM President Carey Cranston. “AWM is proud to help celebrate the work of the writers in the Horizons program.” Continue reading American Writers Museum hosts Horizons showcase

European fellows train with community organizers at CCH

It was a homecoming of sorts for Ivana Novakova when she arrived in April for a four-week community organizing fellowship at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

From left, CCH’s Keith Freeman, Zsuzsa Berecz, Ivana Novakova, and a Breakthrough Urban Ministries’ Wendy Daniels

Ivana’s job was created last year, after the deputy director of the homeless services agency, Depaul Slovensko, completed the same fellowship at CCH. When Jozef Kákoš returned to Slovakia last spring, he created an organizer’s job and promoted Ivana to the post.

“When Jozef came back, we talked about how we need to do things to work in the community. He asked me if I wanted to be an organizer,” Ivana said.

The fellowships are sponsored by the Great Lakes Consortium (GLC) for International Training and Development, an organizing exchange that trades community organizers from the U.S. and Central and Eastern Europe each year.

CCH has sent organizers abroad to offer six trainings while hosting 13 European interns through the program. Wrapping up a four-week fellowship are Ivana, 25, an organizer and street outreach worker from Bratislava, and Zsuzsa Berecz, 37, co-founder of a Budapest-based international artist collective, Pneuma Szöv.

Working alongside CCH organizers, Ivana and Zsusza assisted with shelter outreach, joined a protest rally, and traveled to Springfield. They also had fun sightseeing on the weekends and going to a Chicago Cubs game hosted by the CCH Associate Board.

Ivana said her new job was created around the time she was finishing graduate studies in social work while employed as a social worker at Depaul.

“I wrote my master’s thesis on individual work. I had concluded that it’s better to work in the community than one-on-one. I was very frustrated that nobody in my country works with homeless people. It was all the time just social workers helping people.”

So, the timing was perfect when Ivana’s deputy director, Jozef, returned home to tell his staff what he learned during a CCH fellowship.

“I remember I had 100 questions for him!” she said with a laugh.

Ivana’s Chicago fellowship gave her a chance to work in-person with Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez. Rachel traveled to Europe last fall to offer trainings, including a follow-up with Jozef and meeting Ivana. Since then, she has mentored Ivana with weekly Skype sessions.

Although Rachel is leaving CCH after six years to pursue a Ph.D at Northwestern University, she and Ivana plan to continue Skyping.

“We are not just mentor/mentee, we are friends,” Ivana explained.

Ivana organized a core group of three leaders, all homeless men. Her first organizing success was to help her leaders negotiate with city officials who complained about the trash and noise caused by homeless people camped in a wooded area of Bratislava. They talked with neighbors, asked city district (ward) officials to provide a dumpster.

“We cleaned it together. Now the (city) district pays for a dumpster. For the district, it was a surprise that homeless people can be active and help clean things up.”

Ivana looks forward to having a colleague as Depaul moves ahead on plans to hire a second organizer in coming months.

Zsuzsa holds several jobs in Hungary’s arts community, including a position with a cultural heritage organization. The arts collaborative she co-founded addresses community issues, such as street homelessness. One of the artists in her small collective was homeless for 25 years and now works as a social worker and writer.

Zsuzsa said her Chicago training gave her new insights into “building power,” noting that CCH organizers showed her that “we can create our own power,” instead of just lamenting inequality in society.

Both women said they look forward to Organizer Keith Freeman’s training exchange when he travels to Europe next February. Keith’s trip will be the seventh exchange training for CCH since 2012.

– Anne Bowhay, Media


Executive Director Doug Schenkelberg named a 2019 fellow at Leadership Greater Chicago

Announcement published by Leadership Greater Chicago

40 civic-minded leaders from across sectors selected for region’s most prestigious civic leadership development program

Today, Leadership Greater Chicago (LGC) announced its 2019 Class of LGC Fellows. This select group of 40 accomplished and diverse individuals represents a cross-section of professionals from the corporate, nonprofit, government, and education sectors. They share the organization’s mission to effect transformative change in the community, and join a 35-year legacy of building and strengthening the pipeline of civic leaders who will lead the future of Chicago.

Over the course of the 10-month program, the 2019 LGC Fellows will be immersed in key socioeconomic issues facing our city and the region through full-day seminars, community site visits, discussion groups, conversations with subject matter experts, cultural events, and experiential learning opportunities.

“Our Fellows come from diverse backgrounds but share a common goal to create a better and more united Chicago for all who call it home,” said Maria Wynne, CEO of Leadership Greater Chicago. “We are grateful for the support of the many sponsors who nominated these outstanding individuals and believe in their ability to change the world. On behalf of the LGC Board of Directors, I congratulate our new Fellows and look forward to their positive impact on our region.”

In October 2017, LGC began accepting applications for its 2019 program. More than 100 people applied with the support of their employer. The highly competitive selection process to become an LGC Fellow – which includes a comprehensive written application and interview with graduates of the LGC Fellows Program – is based on a record of remarkable professional achievement early in their careers, evidence of leadership skills, the potential to influence positive change, and a commitment to the community.

As the region’s oldest and most prestigious leadership development program, LGC is known for the lasting impact and strong connections of its Fellows. Since 1983, the organization has gathered the expertise of the city and state’s most respected and influential leaders to tackle the most critical issues shaping our community today, and in the future. As LGC marks the 35th anniversary of its founding by The Chicago Community Trust, more than 1,100 leaders have come through its world-class leadership development program, and 85% of those Fellows still reside in Illinois.

A new class of LGC Fellows is selected each year, with the approval of the LGC Board of Directors. The application for the 2020 Program will open on October 1, 2018.

The 2019 LGC Fellows are:

  • Daniel Anello – Chief Executive Officer, New Schools for Chicago
  • Juana Ballesteros – Manager, Community Public Health Outreach, Illinois Department of Public Health
  • Anthony Balthazor – Senior Vice President and Commercial Banking Team Leader, Huntington National Bank
  • Meena Beyers – Director, Business Support, Nicor Gas
  • Bluma Broner – Managing Director, CIBC
  • Amanda Cage – Chief Program Officer, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership
  • Jonathan Casiano – Senior Vice President-Public Finance, PNC Bank
  • Kirstin Chernawsky – Executive Director, Erie Neighborhood House
  • Jennifer Ballard Croft – Chief of Staff and Chief Diversity Officer, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • Abram Gamboa – Senior Director, CBRE
  • Neha Gill – Executive Director, Apna Ghar (Our Home)
  • Joseph Healy – Business Manager, LiUNA Local 1092
  • Leah Hobson – Vice President of Finance, Northwestern Medicine
  • Kristel Jensen – Vice President and Regional Manager, Fifth Third Bank
  • Meredith Klein – Senior Communications Officer, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • William Knightly – Executive Vice President of Finance and Global Treasurer, Cushman and Wakefield
  • Linh Lawler – Director, Claims Customer Experience, Allstate
  • Lisa Lesniak – Vice President of Public Affairs, Advocate Health Care
  • Gerald Lewis – Managing Director, BMO Harris Bank
  • Fred Long – Vice President of Development and Government Affairs, UCAN
  • Nancy Maldonado – Shareholder, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, P.C.
  • Geeta Malhotra – Partner, Sidley Austin LLP
  • Dr. Suzet McKinney – Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director, Illinois Medical District
  • Patricia Mota – President & Chief Executive Officer, Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE)
  • Christopher Myers – Senior Manager, M&A Transaction Advisory Services, Ernst & Young
  • Paige Ponder – Chief Executive Officer, One Million Degrees
  • Jason Quiara – Senior Program Officer, The Joyce Foundation
  • Shaz Rasul – Executive Director of Student Civic Engagement Initiatives, The University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement
  • Danya Rosen – Executive Director, Peer Health Exchange-Chicago
  • Mamadou-Abou Sarr – Senior Vice President – Director of Product Development and Sustainable Investing, Northern Trust Asset Management
  • Doug Schenkelberg – Executive Director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
  • Priya Shah – Executive Director, Storycatchers Theatre
  • Aneesh Sohoni – Executive Director, Teach For America — Chicago-Northwest Indiana
  • Maya Solis – South Region Director, Chicago Park District
  • Chris-Annmarie Spencer – Project Architect, Wheeler Kearns Architects
  • Anne Sweeney – Managing Director, New Coast Foundation
  • Mario Treto, Jr. – Assistant City Attorney, City of Evanston
  • Andrew Van Wieren, MD – Chief Medical Officer/Medical Director, Esperanza Health Centers
  • Solange-Marie Velazquez – Vice President, William Blair
  • Charles Weikel – Deputy Director, Governor’s Office/Illinois Office of Management and Budget


About Leadership Greater Chicago
Leadership Greater Chicago (LGC) is a premiere civic leadership development program. We convene, connect and mobilize the region’s most promising leaders around key socioeconomic issues through dynamic education and experiential activities. These diverse individuals represent the most prominent corporate, nonprofit, government and education organizations.

This year marks LGC’s 35th Anniversary of its founding by The Chicago Community Trust. Since 1985, we have developed more than 1,100 executive leaders through our signature Fellows Program – an intensive 10-month program that provides the foundation for a lifelong commitment to civic engagement. Additionally, LGC has invested an estimated $5 million to build capacity in the corporate, nonprofit, government and education sectors.

LGC creates connectivity among our Fellows to positively impact not only themselves but their employees, their constituents, their clients, their neighbors and their families. This connectivity is the backbone and strength of the LGC network, enabling leaders to reach out to each other across sectors based on the common goal of changing our region for the better.

The LGC Fellows are a distinguished group that includes former First Lady Michelle Obama, Managing Partner of Emerson Collective and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Chairman of Urban Partnership Bank David Vitale, General Partner of Henry Crown & Company Steve Crown, President and CEO of World Business Chicago Andy Zopp, City Treasurer Kurt Summers, President and CEO of ComEd Anne Pramaggiore, CEO of Ariel Investments John Rogers, Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity & Inclusion at Northern Trust Connie Lindsey, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago and MacArthur Genius Juan Salgado, President and Chief Executive Officer of Metropolitan Family Services Ric Estrada, Chief Executive Officer of American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois Celena Roldan, President and CEO of Cara Maria Kim, President of Metropolitan Planning Council MarySue Barrett, and President and CEO of Access Living Marca Bristo.

LGC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. To learn more about the Leadership Greater Chicago Fellows Program, please click here

Updated Illinois Homeless Youth Handbook now available online

The Law Project has published an online update of the Illinois Homeless Youth Handbook, collaborating again with attorneys from Baker McKenzie and United Airlines.

First released in 2015, the new version of the Illinois handbook is accessed at

“The recent handbook update reflects changes to state and federal laws. The content has been enhanced to make a more comprehensive useful tool for homeless youth and professionals who work with them,” said Associate Law Project Director Beth Malik.

“We’re grateful to Baker McKenzie and United Airlines for their pro bono work and collaboration on this project.”

The 17-chapter handbook is used by educators, advocates, and youth providers, as well as youth. It explains the legal rights and resources for homeless and unaccompanied youth in Illinois, including chapters on education, employment, healthcare, immigration, housing, and accessing identification records.

The 2018 Illinois handbook is one of six state handbooks available on a redesigned website maintained by the Baker McKenzie law firm. Its enhanced search features are to access and navigate from mobile devices.

Youth Futures staff will promote the updated Illinois Homeless Youth Handbook during community outreach at schools, shelters and drop-in centers, as well as conferences and professional training sessions.

– Christy Savellano, Media


Press advisory: Thousands illegally denied health coverage in Illinois – state of Illinois sued for massive Medicaid delay

Released by the Legal Council for Health Justice

Attorneys on behalf of thousands of low-income people filed a motion in court on Wednesday to enforce federal law and the state of Illinois’ agreement to process Medicaid applications in a timely fashion. The attorneys charge that the state is violating both federal law and and Illinois court order by significantly delaying Medicaid applications and denying residents access to health coverage.

The motion, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, asks the court to enforce an existing consent decree that requires the state to determine eligibility for Medicaid within federal timelines,  and to offer temporary medical assistance to people whose application nonetheless pend beyong the federal time limits. The advocates allege the state is woefully behind in its processing and has not offered temporary medical assistance as a solution.

“I’ve represented a multitude of youth clients experiencing homelessness, many of whom have significant physical and mental healthcare needs, who are going without access to care for months,” said Tanya Gassenheimer, youth health attorney at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Gassenheimer, who helps youth experiencing homelessness apply for Medicaid and file appeals with DHS regarding any issues with those applications, filed a declaration in the motion. “My clients rely on programs like Medicaid for survival. These issues are simply inexcusable and it’s well past time for DHS to act.”

Under federal law, the state of Illinois is required to process most applications for Medicaid — the federal-state program that provides health coverage to roughly 3 million Illinoisans — within 45 days. Pursuant to the existing consent decree in Cohen v. Wright, if a determination has not been made in that period, the state must notify applicants that they are eligible for temporary coverage and promptly provide it if requested.

Yet as detailed in declarations filed by enrollment assisters and healthcare providers, the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) is months behind in processing applications and has also stopped sending notices offering temporary eligibility. As a result, tens of thousands of low-income people throughout Illinois are being denied medical care. Among the widespread suffering and hardship, pregnant women are giving birth without health coverage, people facing mental health crises are missing treatment, and children with serious medical conditions are forgoing crucial medication.

“The state of Illinois is clearly in violation of federal law and thousands of Illinoisans are suffering gravely because of it,” said Carrie Chapman, director of advocacy at Legal Council for Health Justice, one of the organizations that helped file the motion. “DHS must provide our clients with access to the care they need and are legally entitled to — we simply can’t wait any longer.”

Plaintiffs allege that delays in processing Medicaid applications have worsened in the last several months, and that eligible individuals are routinely waiting for three to six months to have their applications processed and approved. The lawsuit comes after lawyers representing the plaintiffs tried for months to resolve the issues without legal action, but were unable to compel DHS to comply.

The plaintiffs are also represented by attorneys from the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Sidley Austin LLP.

“People with low income need healthcare coverage to stay healthy and pursue financial security,” said Stephanie Altman, senior director of policy and healthcare justice at the Shriver Center. “By restricting access to vital care, the state of Illinois is jeopardizing both the short- and long-term well-being of our clients.”

Read the motion filed here.


CCH’s 2016 count of homeless Chicagoans: 80,834

In 2016, 80,834 Chicagoans were homeless, according to an annual survey released by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH).

Eighty percent of homeless residents lived doubled-up in the homes of others due to hardship, often in overcrowded conditions. Twenty percent stayed in emergency shelters or lived on the street.

Population breakdowns include:

35,435 homeless people lived in 8,860 families with children

44,757 homeless individuals

11,067 unaccompanied homeless youth, ages 14 through 24

Continue reading CCH’s 2016 count of homeless Chicagoans: 80,834

Chicago Public Schools begin preschool enrollment Monday

Beginning Monday, April 30, Chicago families with preschool-age children can apply to attend preschool for the next school year.

Children must be 3 or 4 years old by September 1, 2018 to be eligible for preschool in the 2018-19 school year. A family can apply for up to two different preschool programs.

Families can apply online at starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday. They can also apply at a designated Family Resource Center or by phone at (312) 229-1690. Continue reading Chicago Public Schools begin preschool enrollment Monday

Justice Circle honors supporters, law firm, and a dedicated client

Top supporters, a pro bono law firm, and a dedicated client were honored by the CCH Law Project at its annual Justice Circle reception April 17.

Marta Delgado and Sam Nandi

Held at Revolution Brewing, the celebration included an award presented to attorney Marta Delgado and her husband, Sam Nandi for their generous support. The Chicago couple has helped the Law Project further its resources, including a vehicle to offer outreach to students and unaccompanied youth.

“Marta and I are inspired by the work you do, the way you support the most vulnerable members of our community, and the way you fight for change in Illinois,” said Mr. Nandi.

The Law Project also honored three attorneys from Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. Matthew Piers, Caryn Lederer, and Kate Schwartz were cited for their dedicated and skilled co-counseling of the first substantive case filed under the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.

CCH also thanked the client in that case, Robert Henderson. The Law Project and Hughes Socol represented Mr. Henderson when he sued after city workers, without notice, threw away his belongings from a West Side viaduct where he lived outside. Among his possessions lost in that November 2015 incident were medications, obituaries of loved ones, and a Bible given to him by a minister to his family.

From left, Matthew Piers, Robert Henderson, Caryn Lederer, Diane O’Connell, and Kate Schwartz

After more than two years, attorneys secured a February settlement that included monetary damages for Mr. Henderson.

“Right away when I met Robert, I knew there was something special about him,” said Diane O’Connell, his CCH attorney. “He was unafraid, he was committed, and he is usually about one hour early for any meeting! He inspired us, gave us pep talks, and was always clear that for him, this case wasn’t about winning or losing, it was about fighting back – and not just for himself, but for others who been forced to live outside and have experienced the same unjust treatment.

“Robert, I am honored to know you, and I want to thank you for bringing your dedication and courage to this case.”

Mr. Henderson, 64, now lives in a senior’s complex and volunteers at a soup kitchen.

The Law Project also thanks its Justice Circle event sponsors: Chase Bank was signature sponsor, with Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLP as leader sponsors.

Additional sponsorship was offered by United Airlines; Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C., and Funkhouser Vegosen Liebman & Dunn Ltd.

– Photos by Allison Williams

– Anne Bowhay, Media