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

July 18, 2018

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.

And while the city is failing to provide permanent housing options for all the people currently living under the viaducts, it has approved a design for the rebuilt structure that will make it impossible for anyone experiencing homelessness to seek shelter under the viaducts after the construction. By placing the proposed bike lanes on the sidewalks, as opposed to following best practice and placing them in the roadway, they have actively chosen to block people experiencing homelessness from the area. They city had the option of adding the bike lanes without reducing the width of the sidewalks, but consciously chose not to take that option. We believe this decision is intentional and the city wants to simply remove people experiencing homelessness from the line of sight of other residents without providing any permanent support.

This issue is not about bike lanes or rebuilding roads. This issue is about how the city chooses to treat people with the most barriers and fewest resources. It is about who and what the city chooses to prioritize. While efforts have been made to assist others who have had to call the viaducts home, the city is failing in this moment to treat people who are homeless with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Chicago can still do the right thing. The city can allocate resources so the remaining residents have permanent supportive housing. They can adjust the design of the bike lanes so that the lanes are on the roadway and not on the sidewalk. Different choices can be made that both improve infrastructure and support the residents. We implore the city to choose a different path and not be guilty of making the lives of those having to live on the streets even more difficult.

Assessments begin for Chicago’s FIT housing program 

Assessments are underway for a new housing program that will assist homeless families with children enrolled at six Chicago Public Schools (CPS):

  • Ellington Elementary
  • Earle Elementary
  • Howe Elementary
  • Nicholson Elementary
  • L. Ward Elementary
  • Lowell Elementary

The new program is called Housing Support for CPS Families in Transition, or FIT.

Participating families will be those staying at shelters, as well as those who are doubled-up with friends or relatives due to economic hardship.

Locations for assessments are listed HERE.

In the coming year, FIT will offer permanent housing and supportive services for 100 of the most vulnerable homeless families at six high-need elementary schools on the South and West sides. It was created through advocacy by the HomeWorks campaign, managed by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH).

The Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund will fund 100 rent subsidies using funds CCH helped free from escrow. The city’s Airbnb tax will fund the supportive services using part of a 4% tax CCH helped enact last year.

Families seeking more information can contact Associate Organizing Director Hannah Willage at (773) 906-3438.

You can read more about HomeWorks HERE.

StreetLight Chicago launches website companion to free mobile app for homeless youth

Homeless youth and their providers in Chicago now can access StreetLight Chicago using a desktop computer! The free mobile application of resources for homeless youth is accessible on a new website, http://www.streetlightchicago.org

StreetLight Chicago is a database listing resource and healthcare information for homeless youth. It was co-created by the Youth Futures legal aid clinic at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Young Invincibles, with support from the VNA Foundation.

Launched last November as a mobile app, Streetlight Chicago provides youth with a centralized list of drop-in centers, shelters, health clinics, food pantries and more. More than 850 users downloaded the app in its first nine months.

StreetLight also offers an innovative feature called “Book a Bed.” It allows youth who work or attend school at night to reserve a bed at La Casa Norte’s North Side youth shelter, 1940 N. California Avenue.

The new website version is aimed at expanding access to StreetLight’s resources for those without cellphones and makes it easier for service providers to work with youth clients.

“Just like the app, the StreetLight Chicago website provides up-to-date information on resources critical to young adults in Chicago facing homelessness,” said Erin Steva, Midwest Director of the Young Invincibles.

“By launching a website, StreetLight Chicago’s reach and impact will drastically expand. The website will allow Chicago Public Schools and social service providers to find youth the supports they need through the mode providers prefer – their computers. Young adults without smart phones will benefit as well, ensuring broad access to powerful information.”

The creators of Streetlight Chicago plan to further broaden listings to include resources available in suburban Chicago.

Service providers should send any updates for the app to Content Manager Bridget Newsham at streetlightchicago@gmail.com

 

Media Advisory for Thursday, August 10: Lawsuit threatened on viaduct construction

Homeless Encampment Residents and Their Attorneys Threaten Lawsuit Against City of Chicago in Advance of Viaduct Construction

WHAT:

Press conference convened by homeless encampment residents of the viaducts at Lake Shore Drive at Wilson and Lawrence avenues. Construction to repair the viaducts is set to begin soon, and the current re-design puts bike lanes in the sidewalks, which is less safe for pedestrians, bikes, and cars, and which is discriminatory toward homeless people.

Residents and their attorneys will be discussing a letter they are sending to the city’s Corporation Counsel indicating that they are prepared to move forward with a civil action pursuant to the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act and to seek injunctive relief under the Act.

WHERE:

Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) – 30 N. LaSalle Street

WHEN:

Thursday, August 10, 11 a.m.

WHO:

Homeless residents of the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and ONE Northside

###

(Uptown) Tent City Voices Heard is an Uptown, Lake Shore Drive tent encampment residents’ association that seeks to win the recognition of their rights (including their right to housing and thus to the opportunity to advance their lives), to find housing solutions for its members and, thereby, to help win those rights for all homeless people. We are separate and distinct from the advocacy group, Uptown Tent City Organizers.

For more information, contact Associate Policy Director Mary Tarullo at mary@chicagohomeless.org

Welcome Veronica Cullinan-Burnison, our new AmeriCorps VISTA Organizer

In July, Veronica Cullinan-Burnison returned to CCH as our new AmeriCorps VISTA organizer. Taking over for Jayme Robinson, Veronica will manage our Speakers Bureau. 

We asked Veronica to introduce herself with this essay:

I am no stranger to the issues that many of the people we work with face. I was born in Volusia County, Florida, but when I was very young, my mom and I moved back to her hometown of Chicago after my parents separated. With only one income supporting us, we struggled to make ends meet and find stable housing. My grandparents took me in, but faced many obstacles because they were not my legal guardians, even with simple tasks like enrolling me in school.

When I was in third grade, my mom made the incredibly selfless decision to grant my grandparents legal guardianship of me. I feel lucky to have had the support of my whole family growing up: my grandparents and mom, as well as my aunts and cousins. I know that many people experiencing housing instability face more challenges than I did, but nevertheless, my upbringing has been the root of my passion to end homelessness.

Veronica with student leaders, speaking with their State Rep. Frances Hurley (D-Chicago) in Springfield.

I was introduced to CCH while earning my bachelor’s degree in social work at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights. As an organizing intern during the 2015-16 school year, I quickly learned that I have a passion for community organizing. Through my internship, I facilitated 27 Speakers Bureau events and trained students from Chicago Public Schools to effectively speak to their legislators and advocate for homeless funding and policies.

One of the biggest events I helped to organize was a sit-in and rally at Governor Bruce Rauner’s Executive Mansion in Springfield to demand funding for homeless services. Leading more than 50 Niles Township high school students, we rallied outside the Executive Mansion while older homeless youth leaders held a sit-in inside. A first-of-its-kind event at the Executive Mansion, our action was successful in getting media attention.

After concluding my internship, I continued to travel to Springfield with CCH to lobby for homeless youth funding. To date, I’ve participated in six advocacy trips.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA at CCH, I will work to build the capacity of the Speakers Bureau. Led by passionate leaders who share their personal and advocacy experiences, the Speakers Bureau graces audiences at schools, universities, religious and civic groups across the Chicagoland area. Through the Speakers Bureau, I have learned so much about what homelessness can look like and what it means for the people who are experiencing it. Our leaders’ dedication to ending homelessness is inspiring and crucial, and I am excited to engage the greater community in efforts to end homelessness.

Rene Heybach: Celebrating 20 years of accomplishments, reflecting on the reality of today

By Rene Heybach

Laurene (Rene) Heybach, the Law Project’s founding director (left), accepts the John “Juancho” Donahue award at the Law Project’s 20th anniversary celebration in March, pictured here with Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes.

Today I conclude twenty years and six months working at the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The work was hard, but worth it. The people I worked with have been great, often courageous. There have been so many remarkable people we served, collaborated with, and joined in the streets. I am entirely grateful.

Thank you to so many wonderful friends and supporters for this chance.

As I leave, I am most proud of our lengthly litigation, Salazar v. Edwards. In 1999, the Law Project went to court to require the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to comply with legal protections for homeless students, resulting in a significant order to address CPS’ widespread non-compliance. It required CPS to significantly improve services to homeless students and designate a trained liaison in every city school. Tens of thousands of students and their families have benefited directly from that work every school year since, and the settlement continues to protect the educational rights of more than 18,000 homeless CPS students today.

Another source of pride was the launch and delivery of the Youth Futures mobile legal clinic, which has provided civil legal services to thousands of unaccompanied homeless youth throughout Chicago since its inception in 2004. The direct legal services provided to our poorest youth have almost always improved lives, in some cases even saved them.

Educating volunteers on the rights of homeless children in public schools.

Most recently, through our longterm litigation and enforcement in Hill v. Erickson in 2009, the Law Project represented more than 1,000 pregnant and parenting DCFS wards, protecting their right to housing, school, childcare and medical services.

But in spite of our work, when arriving today – and as I leave tonight — I pass people begging; some curled into downtown doorways asleep; others ill or disabled; most sharing the common dilemma: a lack housing.

Doing outreach to homeless students and families in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago.

When I leave my office, the doubled-up and sheltered families will be struggling to make it; the homeless students and unaccompanied youth will still be seeking basic educational rights, decent places to live. Those exiting our jails and prisons will continue to face the barrier of prejudice. So I feel the joy of retirement and all of our accomplishments over the years, yet still witness inequity and poverty on a daily basis.

As a young woman, I listened and took to heart the words Dr. King famously spoke in his 1967 speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, in which he condemned the causes of poverty: the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.”

His answer: challenge the status quo; work for justice in a hostile world; restructure a system that reduces so many of our brothers and sisters to poverty and homelessness. This is what we at CCH attempt to do. Though I leave today, I don’t give up. And tomorrow will be another day, when so many people of good conscience work towards the dream.

CCH golf outing in Wilmette on August 21

Janet Terry and Sue Hayes ready to head out to the course.

Space is still available as the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless brings its annual golf outing back to the Wilmette Golf Club for a third year.

Set for Monday, August 21, the event kicks off with a grilled lunch at 12 noon and tee-off at 1:30 p.m. After golfing, participants enjoy cocktails and a dinner reception, with the opportunity to bid on fabulous silent auction prizes.

Dedicated to the memory of CCH’s long-time director,  John “Juancho” Donahue, the 15th annual golf outing raises critical funds for its work to curb homelessness in the Chicago area.

Golfing slots are still available, with foursomes at $1,500, of which $960 is tax-deductible. Anyone interested in registering can do so online HERE.  For more information, please contact Michael Nameche or call (773) 906-3571.

Former Board Member Andrew Shapiro (left) with his foursome

The 2017 event hosts are Mike Bagley of MB Financial Bank; attorney Angela Barnes;  Nicholas Colvin, general counsel and senior advisor to the Chicago City Treasurer; Brian Forde and Mike Heaton, both of O’Keefe Lyons and Hynes LLC; Larry Suffredin of Shefsky & Froelich, Attorneys at Law; CCH Executive Director Doug Schenkelberg; and John Scholvin of Global Liquidity Partners.

Our golf outing promises to be another memorable day on a beautiful course, dedicated to supporting legal aid and advocacy by CCH staff and community leaders. There’s no better excuse to go golfing than this!

Directions are available here.

– Michael Nameche, Director of Development

A fond farewell to Niya Kelly

By Niya Kelly

After almost two years as a policy specialist at CCH, I am leaving to join the staff at the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network.

Niya Kelly with State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch

At CCH I staffed the Homeless Youth Committee, a statewide group of 38 homeless youth providers. I also worked on state budget advocacy with the Responsible Budget Coalition, serving on its executive, legislative, and field committees, ensuring CCH was a part of the conversations concerning Illinois’s budget crisis.

This spring I served as a lead on three pieces of youth-related legislation passed by the General Assembly: House Bill 3211 (College Student Hunger), working with Heartland Alliance and Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; HB3212 (Access to Housing for Homeless Minors); and HB3709 (Mental Health Service Increase for Minors) with EverThrive Illinois. Each measure would ensure that homeless youth can access important services that can ultimately lead to their successful launch into adulthood.

Niya speaking at a press conference on February 29, 2016 to urge funding of critical human services.

At the Battered Women’s Network I will serve as Director of Strategic Initiatives and Public Policy. I’ll continue working on the budget and bringing together advocates and people receiving services. I believe in bringing survivors and service providers to the table, recognizing the diversity of thought and the intersectionality of class, race, sexuality, and gender on issues impacting survivors. My work at CCH taught me the importance of leaders leading initiatives, having organizers, law and policy at the table to work on advocacy initiatives, and that people power can move mountains.

Caprice Williams speaks to members of the press following the Feb. 19, 2016 meeting with Gov. Rauner.

I’ve really enjoyed my time at CCH. Though this is not my accomplishment, I took pride in seeing some of our extremely shy youth leaders come out of their shells as we worked on getting a budget meeting with Gov. Bruce Rauner. Caprice Williams participated in a sit-in at the governor’s Chicago office, quietly sitting in the corner. She continued to participate in actions and later met with the governor; her poise and honesty in that meeting moved me. She later shared her experience of homelessness and her meeting with the governor with Crain’s Chicago Business. Seeing Caprice blossom is the true meaning of what this work means to me and I will carry it with me always.

At last! After two years Illinois legislators pass a state budget, overriding the governor’s veto

By Niya Kelly, Policy Specialist

After two fiscal years without a budget, the Illinois House and Senate came together in bipartisan fashion to enact a budget and revenue package, with final veto override votes on July 6.

Two years without a budget devastated the Illinois safety net. Homeless and housing service providers laid off staff, discontinued programs, and shuttered their doors. The budget crisis not only impacted social services statewide, it jeopardized higher education’s accreditations, dropped the state’s bond rating to near-junk status, and threatened schools’ ability to reopen this fall.

Before the budget and tax measures were enacted, the state comptroller was warning that Illinois state government did not have enough cash to continue operations by August. Another hurdle was created when a federal judge ruled last week that Illinois must begin paying $586 million a month to Medicaid providers, covering a $3.1 billion backlog of unpaid bills.

More than 25% of all state-supported agencies had shuttered programming since the impasse began in 2015, according to a recent United Way survey.

A March lobby day in Springfield (Photo by Allison Williams)

In its budget advocacy, CCH staff brought more than 1,150 homeless leaders and students to Springfield for 23 lobby days over the past two years. We pushed for a responsible revenue package and to ensure homeless and housing services received adequate funding in the proposed budget.

Senate leadership began working on a “Grand Bargain” in late 2016. Then-Republican Leader Christine Radogno (Lemont) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) worked on several compromises sought by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, such as pension reform and a property tax freeze, as well as school funding (Senate Bill 1), a state budget (SB6), and tax revenue (SB9).

There were times the leaders walked away from the table and called off talks. In the end, the Senate passed both SB6 and SB9. The budget bill, SB6, funds homeless and housing services for the remainder of FY17 and FY18. Based on FY15 numbers, the homeless youth line item was cut 5% for FY18, while supportive housing took a 1.8% cut, emergency and transitional housing funding remains the same, and homeless prevention grants received a 24% increase (up $975,000 from $4 million).

The SB9 revenue bill increased the personal income tax rate from 3.75% to 4.95% and the corporate tax from 5.25% to 7%. These rates will be permanent. The personal tax rate is slightly lower than a temporary 5% rate that expired in 2015, bringing in much needed revenue.

Gov. Bruce Rauner had several of his “reform” demands met in the Grand Bargain, yet he vetoed the budget and revenue bills. The Senate and the House overrode the Governor’s veto.

When the House took up the vote for SB6 and SB9, several Republicans, including floor leader Rep. Steve Andersson (R-Geneva), decided to vote yes. SB6 passed 81-34, a veto-proof margin. SB6 passed the Senate 39-6, also veto-proof. SB9 was passed 72-45 in the House and 36-18 in the Senate, again veto-proof.

CCH was an active advocate through the years of the budget crisis, partnering on the Responsible Budget Coalition.

This included CCH advocating for the release of special funds last year in budget bills HB4955/SB2603, and rallying leaders at Thompson Center protests. Homeless youth and their providers met one-on-one with Senate President Cullerton and Gov. Rauner.

CCH leaders participated in one of the largest State Capitol rallies in the state’s history, dubbed the State of Our State. CCH mobilized what’s believed to be the first sit-in at the Executive Mansion in April 2016, with youth asking the governor to release homeless funds. This May, CCH mobilized 75 leaders for an action at Gov. Rauner’s Winnetka mansion.

With budget advocacy led these past two years by Policy Specialist Niya Kelly, CCH organizers mobilized more than 1,150 leaders from all over Chicago, as well as Aurora, Bellwood, Bolingbrook, Champaign, Naperville, Niles, Palos Heights, Park Ridge, Waukegan, and Wheaton.

 

Bridgeview Bank offers third Hearts for the Homeless program

Executive Director Doug Schenkelberg and Assistant Director of Development Claire Sloss (middle) accepting a $15,000 check from Don Cortelyou (left) and Nicole Porrez (right) of Bridgeview Bank Group at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign.

Bridgeview Bank Group is offering its annual Hearts for the Homeless program again this year, benefitting three Illinois homeless organizations, including the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

First launched in May 2015, the campaign raised an impressive $36,150 to support our work on behalf of homeless families, youth, and adults. This will be the third year the bank has run this five-month promotion.

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 $150 to each qualifying account that participates in the program.

“Bridgeview Bank is strongly invested in the communities we serve,” said Andrew M. Trippi, Vice President and Head of Community Banking at Bridgeview Bank. “With the help of our clients who participate in the Hearts for the Homeless program, we are proud to support Chicago Coalition for the Homeless – and their mission to prevent and end homelessness. On behalf of Bridgeview Bank, we wish to thank CCH for their efforts the help end the tragedy of homelessness. We are with you in this fight.”

Hearts for the Homeless will run through November 4, 2017. Find out more here, and accounts can be opened at any Bridgeview Bank location.

To preserve its independent voice, CCH does not accept government funding. CCH could not operate without the support of individuals, foundations, and businesses that share our commitment to ending homelessness.

We are grateful for the generous support of the Bridgeview Bank Group and the clients who participate in Hearts for the Homeless. Together, you make a difference in the lives of people living in need.