CCH opposes Englewood high school closures, citing impact on homeless, low-income and black students

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) opposes the proposed closure of all four neighborhood high schools in Englewood due to the disproportionate impact this would have on homeless, low-income and black students.

John Hope College Preparatory High School

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) recently cited low enrollment when it proposed to close four Englewood high schools where the number of homeless students is four times the citywide average.

Citywide, homeless students comprise 4.7% of total CPS enrollment. But in the four Englewood schools, per a December CPS enrollment report, the number of identified homeless students averages 19% of enrollment:

  • Hope College Preparatory High School – 20 homeless students, 22.2% of its total 90 students
  • Robeson High School – 35 homeless students, 27.5% of 127 students
  • TEAM Englewood Community Academy – 21 homeless students, 24.7% of 85 students
  • Harper High School – “Less than 10” homeless students, 2% to 7% of 129 students

    Paul Robeson High School (Substance News)

Low-income enrollment at the four schools averages 97.7%, compared to 83.1% citywide. Their student populations average 94.2% black students, compared to 37.6% citywide.

CPS has announced that students attending the four schools will not be offered an opportunity enroll at a newly-built Englewood school planned to open in fall 2019. Instead, they must transfer next year to designated schools in other South Side neighborhoods.

“It is unfair to target these schools for closure, all in one neighborhood, because of the disproportionate impact on vulnerable students,” said CCH Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes.

TEAM Englewood student Peace Ambassadors (Alternatives, Inc.)

Homeless students have higher rates of school mobility, causing them to face many barriers to enrollment, attendance and success. Research shows that students who move schools deal with learning delays, missed school days, and disruptions in peer networks and personal relationships.

The CPS method for redrawing attendance boundaries of schools proposed for closure exacerbates the safety and stability for homeless students served by the Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS). Students are unlikely to remain with many of their classmates since attendance boundaries will be split among several different schools, and students must travel far distances to other neighborhoods.

Harper High School (Huffington Post)

Draft transition plans issued by CPS fail to provide adequate support for transitioning STLS students into new schools. CPS did not reserve designated slots at higher-performing schools for homeless and other students impacted by the proposed closures. The Chicago Consortium on School Research issued a 2015 report on CPS school closures that found only students who attend substantially higher-performing schools after their school closes have better academic outcomes.

To ensure that homeless students are not harmed academically by a forced change of school, CPS should guarantee that displaced students can choose a substantially higher-performing school. This includes setting aside slots at magnet and selective enrollment schools and extending the current December application deadlines to those schools.

Given the high numbers of homeless students at the schools proposed for closure, CPS should also appoint additional staff at each school to assist STLS students successfully transition to each school.

Due to the adverse effects of school mobility on homeless students and the high numbers of homeless students at the Englewood high schools, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless urges the Chicago Board of Education to vote against these school closings.

The Law Project and its Youth Futures mobile legal clinic closed 548 cases in 2017, 91% of cases filed on behalf of homeless students and unaccompanied youth.




Beginning Jan. 1, more community college students in Illinois are eligible for the SNAP food program

A new public policy win helps an estimated 40,000 community college students in Illinois: Beginning January 1, low-income, vocational-track students are eligible to apply for the SNAP food assistance program.

New rules issued by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) will allow these students to apply whether full- or part-time students. Previously, only part-time students could qualify for SNAP, also known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has advocated for this for more than five years through its homeless youth campaign, No Youth Alone.

“This is an exciting victory for students,” said State Legislative Director Niya Kelly. “CCH has been in talks with IDHS for years, working to change this antiquated policy.  Homeless students consistently listed this as one of their top barriers in finishing up their education.”

CCH has asked IDHS  to implement a rule change, like the one enacted, since Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration. When that was unsuccessful, CCH worked with Heartland Alliance and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law to propose 2017 legislation later called the “College Hunger Bill.”

It was part of CCH’s successful legislative package, “Three Steps Home.”

As HB3211, the SNAP bill enjoyed strong, bi-partisan support, passing the Illinois House, 85-25, in March and the Senate, 50-1, in May. But Gov. Rauner issued an amendatory veto on August 18, saying the Illinois Student Assistance Commission should not be required to assist with implementation.

So advocates worked with the legislative sponsors to introduce a new bill – Senate Bill 351 – during the fall veto session. The College Hunger Bill passed the Illinois Senate by a 54-1 vote on Oct. 25. But the measure failed to progress through 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, requiring no further attempts at legislation.

For their strong leadership, CCH offers thanks to the bills’ legislative sponsors, Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) and Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), and to IDHS Secretary James Dimas.

Key staff advocating on this issue over the years were Policy’s Niya Kelly, who led this year’s effort for CCH, Policy Director Julie Dworkin, and Associate Law Project Director Beth Malik.

The new SNAP policy is still in the rule-making process. Students with questions may contact their local IDHS office. When implementation begins, CCH will provide an update.

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

Students in vocational-track community college courses include: Agriculture; Business and office; Marketing and distribution (information management and product/service management); Health (CNA, LPN and RN programs); Home economic sciences (food preparation and culinary studies); Technical education (computers and data processing, engineering and science technologies, and communication technologies); and Trade (automotive or HVAC courses).

– Anne Bowhay, Media

#OneChipChallenge Twitter campaign raises $2,500+

By Christy Savellano, Development Associate

Kudos to Jordan Uhl! The Washington, D.C. journalist mobilized 80 donors via Twitter, promising to do the #OneChipChallenge if they raised $2,000 for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Jordan Uhl

In six days, the campaign raised $2,585. It culminated with Jordan eating “the world’s hottest chip,” Paqui’s Carolina Reaper Madness, in a live Twitter stream on Wednesday evening.

With more than 82,000 followers on Twitter, Jordan is an editor at AmpliFire News and a co-host of Think Twice Podcast. He created a CrowdRise fundraising page to raise money for CCH and encouraged his social media followers to donate. They liked and shared his tweets to spread the word, gaining donor attention and nearly 100 new Twitter followers for CCH.

In one of a series of tweets encouraging people to donate, Jordan said, “…@ChiHomeless is doing lifesaving work to make their lives better. Start 2018 off right by making a donation to help their cause!” That tweet alone received 298 retweets and 529 likes.

While live streaming his #OneChipChallenge to over 9,000 viewers, Jordan explained his inspiration to fundraise for CCH.

“They do lifesaving work in Chicago, with how windy it is, how cold it gets there, I think about the homeless population, this is a lifesaving organization,” said Jordan.

To view Jordan’s #OneChipChallenge click on the link below:

Jordan tweeting he achieved his fundraising goal

To preserve its independent voice, CCH does not accept government funding. Many thanks to Jordan for this one-of-a-kind fundraiser and to all the people who donated to help Chicago’s homeless community. Your collective generosity advances our mission to prevent and end homelessness.

Where to turn for help in frigid weather

Chicagoans should call “311” if they need weather-related help in frigid winter weather, including access to homeless shelters or city warming centers.streetlight-chicago-image

Garfield warming center at 10 South Kedzie Avenue is open 24/7. Six other neighborhood warming centers, listed here, are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays whenever temperatures go below 32 degrees.

In the suburbs, people can contact police non-emergency numbers to ask about warming centers, many of which are housed in police station lobbies and libraries. To find a warming center statewide, see

StreetLight Chicago, a free mobile app for homeless youth, provides alerts and lists resources such as shelter and drop-in centers that serve unaccompanied youth through age 24. The free app can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play. Continue reading Where to turn for help in frigid weather

Thanks to Zumiez, 300+ homeless people have new coats for winter

New coats were a hit at these boys’ South Side shelter. (Photo by Keith Freeman)

Thanks to outerwear retailer Zumiez, homeless families are ready for winter this holiday season.

Every year since 2005, Zumiez has shipped more than 40 boxes of coats, hoodies, blankets, gloves and hats.

That’s 550 boxes of clothing in 13 years!

This year Zumiez sent us 42 boxes – 200 coats for men, women and children, 96 blankets, 96 adult hoodies, 120 hats, and 40 pairs of gloves.

Community organizers distribute the clothing at some of the 40+ shelters where they run outreach.

“It’s a generous donation that really helps people in need,” said Associate Director of Organizing Wayne Richard, who managed this year’s distribution.

– Anne Bowhay, Media



The Ward family is getting a home of their own!

A new city housing program is helping 100 homeless families, including the Wards, secure homes of their own. The Families in Transition program was created after advocacy led by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless through our signature campaign, HomeWorks.

“It will be better – it will be our own place,” says Robin Ward. “We can raise our kids the way we want to raise our kids. We don’t have to worry about living doubled-up with different people.” 

Continue reading The Ward family is getting a home of their own!

Homeless Memorial set for Tuesday, Dec. 19

For National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a coalition of homeless service providers and advocates will host a candlelight vigil and memorial service to remember Chicagoans who died this year without a home.

As the nights get longer and colder, we remember that homelessness is a human struggle. Hundreds will join us for this moving service, a solemn reminder of those who have little to call their own.

Thirty-four people – 28 men and six women – were remembered, as well as “those whose names are known only to God.”



Harmony, Hope & Healing sings at the 2016 memorial service.

Tuesday, December 19, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Old St. Pat’s Church, 700 W. Adams Street, Chicago (free of charge)


An analysis of census data by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless showed 82,212 Chicagoans were homeless in 2015. Nationally, over the course of a year, 2.5 million to 3.5 million people experience homelessness.


This event is affiliated with National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, one of more than 150 events across the U.S. organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless.

This Chicago service was first organized in 2010 by CCH, Ignation Spirituality Project, and Old St. Pat’s Church. Homeless attendees are offered a dinner prior to the service. The Homeless Memorial is now coordinated by these six Chicago organizations:

  • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless advocates for and with homeless youth, families and adults, including a legal aid program serving the needs of students, youth and adults experiencing homelessness.
  • Franciscan Outreach  provides shelter, case management, shower facilities and laundry services to hundreds of men, women and children in the model of respect and dignity of St. Francis of Assisi.
  • Harmony, Hope & Healing provides creative, therapeutic and educational music programs, offering emotional and spiritual support to homeless and underserved women, men and children in the Chicago area.
  • Ignatian Spirituality Project works to end homelessness by providing Ignatian retreats to men and women who are homeless and in recovery.
  • Old St. Patrick’s Church extends hospitality to all that find the church on their path and to serve the life and work of the laity in the world.
  • New Moms enables, empowers and equips at-risk adolescent parents and their children through services and mentoring based on Christian values.

For more information, contact Associate Director of Community Organizing Wayne Richard.

HUD releases new Point-in-Time count of homelessness

By Julie Dworkin, Director of Policy

HUD released its annual Point-in-Time count today announcing that homelessness has increased nationally for the first time since 2010. Although Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) does not doubt that homelessness on the rise, we have always had serious concerns about the validity of the Point-in-Time count as an accurate reflection of trends in homelessness from year to year.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty echoes these concerns in a report, also released today, “Don’t Count On It: How the HUD Point-In-Time Count Underestimates the Homelessness Crisis in America.” Among concerns cited in the report are the fact that one-night counts do not capture the transitory nature of homelessness, that people sleeping outside are often hidden from plain view, and that the Point-in-Time does not count people who are doubled-up with relatives or friends, or staying in jails or hospitals on the night of the count. Continue reading HUD releases new Point-in-Time count of homelessness

Welcome Policy Specialist Mercedes González

We asked new Policy Associate Mercedes González to introduce herself.

Mercedes González (Photo by Claire Sloss)

My interest in social justice stems from the issues I’ve seen my family struggle with firsthand.

As immigrants with low-wage jobs, my parents have faced homelessness more than once. Upon their arrival to the United States, they had little resources and were forced to double-up with family members. My parents were able to secure housing after a few months, but even then, our accommodations were inadequate. Heavy rains frequently inundated our home to the point where it was no longer habitable and we were forced to sleep on a mattress in the back of a U-Haul more than once. Needless to say, my family’s experience with homelessness drives my desire to assist those who face a similar uncertainty. Continue reading Welcome Policy Specialist Mercedes González

Thank you for a successful Giving Tuesday!

Many, many thanks for your generous support on Giving Tuesday, a global day of charitable giving held Nov. 28. This year, the Magnus Charitable Trust generously offered to match all donations made to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, dollar-for-dollar up to our goal of $10,000.

By day’s end we more than tripled that goal: 232 donors generously gave $34,668, including donations received through Facebook. An additional 22 donors gave $3,386 for Giving Tuesday in the hours before and after Nov. 28. One-third of our 254 donors gave a first-time gift to CCH. Continue reading Thank you for a successful Giving Tuesday!