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 MichaelNameche or call (773) 906-3571.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Horizons creative writing workshop hosted 35 parents and children from two South Side shelters at its yearly poetry showcase, held June 20 at Chicago’s Intuit gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
Seven parents and three children shared their own poetry during a one-hour showcase.
Residents from Primo Center for Women and Children and A Safe Haven South participated, led by Associate Director of Organizing Wayne Richard. Through Horizons, Wayne leads bi-weekly writing sessions for parents and older children at five family shelters.
“This is my first time reading my poetry, so I’m kind of nervous,” the evening’s first poet said, smiling. “So deal with it.”
Then, as her three children watched, Ms. Liddell recited several pieces. They included:
“Maybe I try too hard to make a future for myself and my children… Maybe I’m tired of your labels, your countless lies… I’m trying to become someone who loves herself.”
Ms. Liddell’s older daughter, Sherwanna, 15, followed her mother on stage, sharing her poems “Life” and “Symbiosis.”
The audience later voted for their favorite poets. Through enthusiastic applause, they singled out Angelina Dunn as runner-up, with Dionne Naize the winner.
Mrs. Naize offered a poem, “Daddy’s Little Girl,” written after the recent death of her father:
“As a little girl there were only stories of you… Our visits were few, but the love sure did last.”
Other participating poets were Candice Brow, Chris Jelkes and his son Jaylen, Linda Moree, Denim Smith, and Wendy Woods.
Booklets were published by Horizons featuring some of the poetry. Other work is featured online in our Horizons Reading Room.
Horizons is supported by longtime grants from the Seabury Foundation, with internship assistance by graduate students from Adler University. Our 2017 Adler intern was Lucy Gonzalez.
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and its Law Project has awarded renewable $2,500 college scholarships to four students who succeeded in high school while coping with homelessness. Funded by private donors and grants, CCH has awarded more than $270,000 to 55 students since 2004.
Scholarship winners Mayra Fajardo, Niani Scott, Prince Washington, and Avery Williams were honored at a public awards event on June 22.
“We are inspired by these remarkable students,” said Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes. “Despite unstable housing and other barriers, they have demonstrated a commitment to their education. We look forward to seeing what these leaders accomplish in their college years and beyond.”
Our program’s newest college graduate, Gesenia Viviescas, was featured speaker at an awards event hosted by Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
In her address, Gesenia talked of the difficulties she and her sister overcame: Forced as teens to separate from their mother in Colombia, the girls returned to the U.S. They stayed with one relative before becoming homeless, then were allowed to double-up with a relative who made them live in her basement. Gesenia sold chocolate bars at school to earn money for herself and her sister, earned good grades, and was active at Chicago’s Carl Schurz High School. She credits Schurz counselor Eve Kelly for getting her to apply in 2013 for the CCH scholarship — “pushing the application on me about four times.”
“Having received the scholarship changed my outlook on my identity,” said Gesenia. “Being apart of a group of scholars so determined despite their obstacles means something bigger.
“The concept of home as a homeless student is often fuzzy or seems unrealistic. Throughout my life, I lived in two different countries, three different states, and have attended over 11 different schools. I have found that home is more than a physical structure. Home is finding appreciation in yourself. Home is surrounding yourself with individuals that will push you, that will challenge you, and that will care for you simultaneously.
“For my new and current recipients, remember that your story matters and that transformation in our communities is coming. Be patient with yourself, because healing isn’t linear. You have overcome so much and your strength will take you many places. For the donors and people who have supported homeless students, just know that your work doesn’t go unnoticed. Your dedication to be agents of change have transformed my life and the lives of others more than words can thank.”
To date, 14 scholarship recipients have graduated with bachelor’s degrees, 39% of the 36 students eligible to do so. This compares well per a February 2015 study that showed 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). Three additional CCH scholarship students have earned associate or nursing degrees.Supporters of the scholarship program, the family, friends and teachers of our students, and program graduates are invited to attend the public, free-of-charge event.
Also honored were 14 rising sophomores, juniors and seniors, earlier scholarship winners who will receive renewal awards of $2,500. They attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Blackburn and Columbia colleges, DePaul and North Park universities, University of Illinois campuses in Chicago and Champaign, and the historically black colleges and universities of Benedict, Howard, and Tougaloo.
The Law Project launched the program to encourage and showcase homeless youth with whom it works – in 2016, 87% of its 404 legal aid clients were homeless students or youth. CCH scholarships help graduating seniors who have experienced homelessness, some of them for most of their lives. Long focused on helping Chicago Public Schools students, suburban students have been eligible since 2015.
Eighteen high school seniors applied by the April 14 deadline. The 2017 winners are:
Mayra Fajardo, Chicago – University of Illinois-Chicago: Following her parents’ return to Ecuador, Mayra has been an unaccompanied youth for two years, living with different friends’ families. With a 3.5 GPA at Lane Tech College Prep High School, Mayra plans to study psychology.
Niani Scott, Bolingbrook – University of Illinois-Champaign: With experience blogging and in poetry competitions, Niani has decided to study at U. of I.’s journalism school. When she was a high school freshman, Niani was represented by the CCH Law Project and a Chicago law firm after school officials questioned her family’s then-homeless status. She later finished high school in South Africa, after securing a scholarship to study abroad. Taking a gap year before college, Niani has worked at the law firm that once helped her, Burke, Warren, MacKay and Serritella.
Prince Washington, Chicago – University of Illinois-Springfield: Prince plans to study political science with a minor in educational leadership. He wants a career as a teacher, and one day to enter politics. Prince said he loved his years at Argo Community High School in suburban Summit – in part, because after homelessness forced him to move out of the district, school officials encouraged him to stay at Argo. That’s the option that state and federal law allows for homeless students, but Prince said school officials, particularly Supt. Kevin O’Mara, were always there for him and helped him succeed. Prince participated in Argo’s theater program, speech team, and the Principle’s Advisory Committee, and works in restaurants to support himself.
Avery Williams, Chicago – Savannah College of Art and Design: A talented artist, Avery plans to study animation and visual effects for movies and TV. Avery said she always loved how movies offer “a break from the problems and stresses in your life” – something her family experienced when living in shelters. She earned a 4.06 GPA and participated in three exhibitions during two years studying art at Gallery 37. Avery also works part-time for her mother’s catering service, Moxie Chicago.
The college scholarship program is funded by designated donations and by grants from the Osa Foundation, Susan W. Pearson Memorial, and the North Shore-based Student Alliance for Homeless Youth. All donations to the program are fully tax-deductible.
Thanks to a generous incentive created by the Osa Foundation, when students earn a cumulative grade point average of “B” or better, they receive a laptop. Nineteen students have earned this honor, including five new winners this year: rising sophomores Nia Hill (Howard University), Claudia Kubarycz-Hoszowska (University of Illinois/Champaign), Dontay Lockett (Columbia College Chicago), and Ayrianna Longs (North Park University), and rising junior Jennessa Martinez (SAIC).
The 8-member Scholarship Selection Committee includes Jennifer Salgado-Benz, a 2012 scholarship winner and Lake Forest College grad; Daihana Estrada, a 2010 scholarship winner and UIC grad; retired CCH Executive Director Ed Shurna; and Patricia Rivera, founding donor of the scholarship and retired director of the CPS homeless education program, now directing shelter-based tutoring for Chicago HOPES. Also, on the committee are CCH’s intake coordinator, Roberto Martinez; social worker Monica Mahan; and Claire Sloss and Anne Bowhay of the development/media staff.
– Photos by Jeff Foy and Claire Sloss, story by Anne Bowhay
Residents also demand that the design of the re-constructed viaducts does not intentionally exclude homeless individuals
WHAT: Press conference convened by homeless encampment residents of the viaducts at Lake Shore Drive at Wilson and Lawrence Avenues. Residents are responding to the Request for Proposals (RFP) that the city of Chicago recently released seeking to identify construction companies to perform the work on the viaducts later this summer.
Residents are calling on Mayor Emanuel to provide housing solutions given that the city will be evicting them from their homes to make way for viaduct construction. They are also demanding that the design of the viaducts not intentionally exclude homeless people. The RFP calls for 6-foot bike lanes and security fences.
WHERE: City Hall – 5th floor (121 N. LaSalle)
WHEN: Wednesday, June 14 – 11 a.m.
WHO: Homeless residents of the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts and supporting community members
Tents assembled outside of the Mayor’s office
Homeless residents delivering a letter including their demands to the Mayor’s office
Religious leaders wearing identifiable clothing
(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.
Now that the school year is coming to a close, students in Illinois look forward to special school activities, including graduation, senior luncheons and field trips.
Every year the Law Project receives many calls from low-income students and families who are being pressured by their schools to pay hundreds of dollars in fees before graduation or year-end.
Yet under state law, many of these fees are required to be waived for students and families unable to afford them, including those who are homeless or low-income.
A student or parent must file a written request to have school fees waived, or for Chicago Public School (CPS) students, fill out a CPS Fee Waiver Form. If a student qualifies for a fee waiver, school officials cannot bar a student from participating in school activities, such as prom or graduation, due to their inability to pay.
To qualify as low-income in CPS, a student or family cannot exceed 130% of the federal poverty guidelines. That includes annual incomes of $15,444 for a single person, $20,826 for a family of 2; $26,208 for a family of 3; and $31,590 for a family of 4.
In suburban and downstate schools, students who qualify for free school meals are eligible for fee waivers.
Some examples of school fees that must be waived for low-income students:
Charges for textbooks and instructional materials
Fees for field trips taken during school hours, or field trips taken after school hours if the field trip is a required or customary part of a class or school activity. This includes annually scheduled trips such as end-of-the-year or graduation field trips and activities.
Graduation fees, including caps and gowns
Charges or deposits for uniforms or equipment for sports or fine arts
Charges for supplies for a particular class, such as shop or home economics materials, or laboratory or art supplies.
Charges and deposits for use of school property, such as locks, towels, and lab equipment.
Driver’s education fees
Fees to obtain school records and health services
Schools do not have towaivesome fees and costs, including ordinary school supplies, class rings, yearbooks, school photos and diploma covers, admission to school dances and athletic events and optional travel. While these fees are not required to be waived, many schools have programs to help students and families with these costs.
The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is available to assist students and families seeking school fee waivers.
Families needing information or assistance can call toll-free at 1 (800) 940-1119.
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) advocates reentry measures that would limit the barrier to jobs, housing and higher education that are triggered by a criminal background check.
A bill to expand record-sealing for most felonies, House Bill 2373, is being sent to the governor for consideration after passing the Illinois Senate with bi-partisan support (36-19) on May 30.
State Rep. Camille Lilly and State Sen. Don Harmon (both D-Oak Park) sponsor the measure. It passed the Illinois House, 80-34, on April 27.
Currently, only nine felonies are eligible for sealing three years after sentencing. The sealing exception would be convictions related to domestic violence, sex crimes, animal abuse, or driving under the influence.
HB 2373 would offer relief to people in reentry who face years of discrimination because of an old record.
The Reentry Project at CCH advocates with the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI). The coalition was organized in 2015 by CCH, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance. RROCI advocates policies that remove barriers for ex-offenders in reentry, including lifetime employment bans.
RROCI worked this spring with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on a second bill: We’re advocating for legislation that would prohibit colleges and universities from asking about or considering a person’s criminal record to decide admissions.
House Bill 3142 would provide opportunities for ex-offenders to apply for and be admitted for higher education, without fear of facing discrimination and barriers. The bill is now being considered in the Senate, after passing out of the House, 65-49, on April 5. State Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) sponsors the measure.
During 2016, RROCI successfully advocated for four jobs bills that boost employment opportunities for returning citizens at schools, park districts, and healthcare facilities.
After the job bills were signed last summer, RROCI surveyed 350 men and women with records, asking them to identify their biggest challenges. An overwhelming majority agreed that background checks prove a never-ending barrier when trying to rebuild their lives, spurring the coalition to propose HB2373.
CCH advocates for reentry measures at the local and state level with its Reentry Project committee. The group is comprised of ex-offenders, service providers, advocates, and academics. The reentry staff includes Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez, Policy Director Julie Dworkin, and myself.
Three statewide measures to help homeless and at-risk youth facing barriers to safe housing and services passed final votes in the Illinois Senate by May 26.
A legislative package CCH calls Three Steps Home, the bills will be forwarded to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature or veto.
Also, a bill to provide no-fee birth records to homeless youth and adults (House Bill 3060) faces a final concurrence vote in the House before it heads to the governor.
No-fee birth records was proposed by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and advocated by State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) and Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office. Cook County adopted a similar countywide measure April 12.
CCH Law Project, public policy department and its statewide Youth Committee worked with other advocates to introduce legislation that offers homeless and unaccompanied youth the opportunity to further their education, housing options, and access to counseling. Because of young age and vulnerable circumstances, services to these youth are often been limited.