$2,500 college scholarship applications due April 16

Applications are due in mid-April for $2,500 renewable college scholarships. By June, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) will select four graduating high school seniors who succeeded in school despite coping personally with homelessness.

Our 2017 winners: Prince Washington, Avery Williams, Mayra Fajardo, and Niani Scott

Students from Chicago and suburban schools are eligible to apply, as well as youth leaders active with CCH. Most scholarship winners receive $10,000 to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Online applications are available here.

All online and paper applications must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 16, 2018. This includes all supplemental materials, such as two references, that will be reviewed by our selection committee.

To showcase the promise and tenacity of students who coped with homelessness, the CCH Law Project created the scholarship program in 2004. The program was the next step for a legal aid program that focuses its casework on helping homeless students and unaccompanied youth. Patricia Rivera, then director of the Chicago Public Schools’ Homeless Education Program, collaborated with CCH in creating the scholarship, and was the first of the private donors to fund the scholarships.

By June 2018, 19 scholarship recipients will have graduated with bachelor’s degrees, 43% of the 44 students eligible to do so. This compares well per a national study that showed in 2013 just 9% of students from the lowest income bracket ($34,160 or lower) had earned a bachelor’s by age 24 (University of Pennsylvania and Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, February 2015).

During the 2017-18 school year, 18 students attend colleges and universities in Illinois and Georgia, and historically black colleges in Mississippi, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.

CCH scholarships are funded by private donors and several groups: The Osa Foundation and Robin Lavin, Susan W. Pearson Memorial Fund, and the Student Alliance for Homeless Youth, led by teens from eight North Shore high schools. The program also benefited by prior grants from the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, Sisters of Charity, BVM, and a $10,000 challenge grant from Elaine’s Hope, funded by educator Rhonda Purwin.

More information, including detailed eligibility guidelines, are available here.

– Anne Bowhay, Media

CCH statement on the Loop Alliance addition of armed security to deal with panhandling

March 1 – Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is very concerned about the Loop Alliance’s addition of private, armed guards to the streets. Panhandling is a lawful activity and targeting people who are homeless for panhandling violates the First Amendment right to free speech and the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.

We know from our work that people experiencing homelessness experience high levels of harassment from both Chicago Police and other security personnel. They often are given tickets for “aggressive panhandling,” even when they are doing nothing wrong, as a form of harassment and a way to discourage them from being in an area. Moreover, we are very concerned about whether these or any armed guards are properly trained to understand the complexities of homelessness and engage with someone that may be dealing with trauma or mental health issues.

The fact that there are people in the Loop that are experiencing homelessness should lead to a discussion to how we collectively solve homelessness. The Loop Alliance has not reached out to CCH about their decision to hire armed security guards. Had they, we would have told them we disagree with the decision, and we believe that they should put the time and resources they are spending on that response into supporting and advocating for the permanent housing people experiencing homelessness need. That is the only true solution to homelessness.

– Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director

Link to Chicago Loop Alliance media release

Link to Chicago Tribune: Armed private guards will patrol State Street to aid security downtown

Senior Organizer Jim Picchetti offers trainings in Central Europe

Jim Picchetti, CCH’s State Network senior organizer, is in Central Europe this month through a training exchange program.

Jim on a previous exchange trip through GLC in 2014.

Sponsored by the Great Lakes Consortium (GLC) for International Training and Development, the exchange trades community organizers from the U.S. and Central Europe each year. CCH has sent organizers abroad for six trainings and hosted 11 interns through the GLC program.

Jim will offer follow-up training to former CCH interns working in Hungary and Slovakia.

“I will be spending most of my time in Hungary, working with my two recent interns,” Jim said. “I will be working with Alexandra Szarka on a public toilets campaign in Budapest and with Fanni Aradi on coalition building in the southwestern town of Pécs. Both work for a non-profit called Cities for All.

“When they interned with me, they were hungry for knowledge on how to organize in their hometowns. I can’t wait to see what they have done with the tools we gave them in November, and to see how I can help them continue to grow as community organizers.

“I will also be flying to Bratislava to touch base with Jozef Kakos, a former intern who worked with Rachel (Ramirez, also a senior organizer).”

CCH will host two new interns in April.
– Anne Bowhay, Media

Settlement in first substantive case filed under Illinois’ Bill of Rights for the Homeless

By Diane O’Connell, Staff Attorney

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless filed suit Tuesday against the city of Chicago on behalf of Robert Henderson in what is believed to be a first test of the state’s Homeless Bill of Rights. | Photo by Mark Brown/Sun-Times

The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has secured a significant settlement on behalf of our client, Robert Henderson, in the first substantive case filed under the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act. It was a proud moment for us, and a victory for the rights of people who experience homelessness in Chicago.

Illinois was the second state in the U.S. to adopt a Homeless Bill of Rights, enacted in 2013 after advocacy by CCH. A legal intern at the time, I remember the day that Gov. Pat Quinn came to CCH’s office to sign the act into law. 

Two years later and now an attorney, I was standing by a West Side viaduct at Oakley and Kinzie speaking with Robert. He called our office because city workers had come through the viaduct and thrown away everything he owned into a garbage truck. Among the belongings the city seized and destroyed were his medications, obituaries of loved ones, and a Bible given to him by a minister to his family. Using abusive language, a city worker told Robert, a man in his 60s, to go find somewhere else to live.  

After meeting Robert, we secured a law firm to co-counsel in representing him. Assisted by the talented lawyers at Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. (HSPRD), we filed the case in court in March 2016, steering it through the next two years of litigation. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown also wrote about Robert.

Six months later we defeated the city’s motion to dismiss the case, an early victory that indicated that the city should be taking the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights seriously.

Attorney Kate Schwartz of HSPRD, who argued in opposition to the city’s motion for dismissal, explained, “The win was significant because the court rejected the city’s incredibly narrow interpretation of the homeless act.  While the city insisted that the act only supports a cause of action for discrimination based solely on housing status, the court interpreted the law to provide homeless individuals broad protection, regardless of intent.”

Later, we won a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of individual defendants. Finally, a few weeks before the case was set for trial, we reached a favorable settlement for Robert that includes monetary damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

For Robert, the case was not just about compensation. It was about vindication. In his words, “This case was about the way the city treats their citizens.  [Losing my belongings] means nothing to them, but it means everything to a homeless person.”

Thankfully, while the case was pending, Robert obtained permanent housing. After many years of homelessness, he has spent the past two winters safe and warm inside his own home.

But outside, Chicagoans who struggle with homelessness continue to deal with daily violations of their civil rights. CCH filed two more Homeless Bill of Rights cases in the past year, responding to the city’s actions in Uptown and in the Lower Wacker area, the latter case co-counseled with Hughes Socol. Both cases have distinct facts, but Robert’s serves as the foundation that informs our efforts.

For me, Robert’s case was an exercise in democracy: to have been part of the organization that worked to pass the Homeless Bill of Rights Act, then to have helped a client file the first complaint exercising his rights under it. It was a privilege to bear witness to Robert’s story and to stand next to him in court. More broadly, Robert’s case is important because it was a response to one of the many injustices experienced by homeless people in Chicago. It was one moment, under one viaduct, that didn’t go unanswered.


CCH statement: Gov. Rauner’s new budget plan fails on multiple levels

Feb. 14 – Governor Rauner’s proposed budget fails on multiple levels. Proposing $400 million in reduction to human services including reductions to supportive housing, mental health and substance use treatment, only serves to further weaken the infrastructure that Illinois needs so its residents can meet their full potential. In addition, his proposed $228 million cut to the Chicago Public Schools will undermine supports needed to serve the over 18,000 students experiencing homelessness in Chicago’s schools.

People experiencing homelessness are left out of the governor’s vision for Illinois. His approach to human service is one that sidelines thousands of Illinoisans that have and want to continue contributing to making our state stronger. You cannot grow Illinois without contributing to the well-being of people experiencing homelessness and ensuring there is adequate funding in the budget to not only maintain current funding, but grow it to meet need.

When the governor speaks of reform, he fails to talk about tax reform. Reducing the state’s revenue through an income tax reduction is a step backwards. We encourage the governor and members of the legislature to support a fair tax that will both remove the regressive tax structure we have in place and increase Illinois’ revenue to invest in the people of Illinois. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will fight for these investments through the implementation of a fair tax and against the proposed regressive cuts that only serve to hurt Illinoisans.


CCH statement on Gov. Rauner’s State of the State speech

Jan. 31 – Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) applauds Governor Rauner’s new found optimism about Illinois’ future, but we heard no acknowledgement of his failure to adequately support people who have been pushed to the side.

His speech showed every indication he will continue to exclude people facing hardship from accessing opportunity. History has shown us that when elected officials talk about “reduced spending,” those cuts hit the human services infrastructure first, including programs that prevent and end homelessness for Illinoisans.

CCH’s vision for Illinois is different from Governor Rauner’s. We envision a state that pays its bills on time, adequately funds the work that serves people experiencing homelessness, and takes on the goal of ending homelessness with the same fervor that we have pursued Amazon’s headquarters. It is our hope that his February budget address and accompanying budget embraces this alternative vision.

– Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director


Bridgeview Bank Group donates $16,250 through ‘Hearts for the Homeless’

Associate Director of Development Claire Sloss (middle) accepting the check from Andrew Trippi (left) and Nicole Porrez (right) of Bridgeview Bank Group.

Bridgeview Bank Group presented the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless with a donation of $16,250 upon completion of its third “Hearts for the Homeless” program.

“We are grateful for the generous support of the Bridgeview Bank Group and the clients who participated in Hearts for the Homeless,” said Executive Director Doug Schenkelberg. “Together, you make a difference in the lives of people living in need.”  Continue reading Bridgeview Bank Group donates $16,250 through ‘Hearts for the Homeless’

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.

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.

John Hope College Preparatory High School

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.

– Story by Anne Bowhay and Patricia Nix-Hodes; infographic by Claire Sloss.



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

Updated February 13, 2018

A new public policy win will help an estimated 40,000 community college students in Illinois: In 2018, 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.

In early February, an IDHS spokeswoman said that students can apply for SNAP after IDHS completes rule-making procedures. Announcements will be made when this new eligibility opens.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has advocated this eligibility 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 2017 and the Senate, 50-1, in May 2017. But Gov. Bruce 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 2017 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.

Working with Heartland and the Shriver Center, CCH will continue to advocate for legislation (SB351) in 2018 that ensures students retain access to SNAP even if IDHS were to change its rules again.

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 are Policy’s Niya Kelly, who leads current efforts for CCH, and earlier advocacy by 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.