June 14 media advisory: Homeless encampment residents to hold press conference outside mayor’s office to demand housing in advance of viaduct construction

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.

For more information, contact Associate Policy Director Mary Tarullo


School fee waivers for homeless and low-income students

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 to waive some 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.

Record-sealing bill HB2373 goes to the governor

Updated May 30, 2017

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.

FACT SHEET for House Bill 2373

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.

Prepping slips to talk to legislators for HB2373 (Photo by Rachel Ramirez)

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.

FACT SHEET for House Bill 3142

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.

– Jonathan Holmes, Policy Specialist

Continue reading Record-sealing bill HB2373 goes to the governor

Legislators pass three statewide measures to assist homeless and at-risk youth

Updated May 26, 2017

By Niya Kelly, Policy Specialist

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.

Continue reading Legislators pass three statewide measures to assist homeless and at-risk youth

Homeless leaders go to Gov. Rauner’s Winnetka mansion, demand budget now


Advisory to our Monday, May 15 action – covered by WGN-TV and ABC7

Who: 85 homeless youth & shelter residents

What: Meet at Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Winnetka house to demand he govern and pass a budget now

Also planned: Brief press conference prior, door-knocking with neighbors to ask their support

Where: Gov. Rauner’s house – Winnetka

On May 15, homeless youth and shelter residents from Chicago, Aurora, Waukegan, and Zion held a press conference outside Gov. Bruce Rauner’s upscale Winnetka mansion – the home of a governor who self-funded an ad campaign that claims Illinois is held together by duct tape.

“Last month, Gov. Rauner aired ads knocking legislators for passing solutions that keep Illinois held together with duct tape,” said Stefano Medansky, a homeless leader from Waukegan, “Truth is, he’s forcing all of us to hold our crumbling communities together with duct tape because he won’t govern and pass a budget.”

Our message: If respected Republican governors Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson could govern and pass state budgets with Speaker Mike Madigan, why can’t Gov. Rauner get the job done for the people of Illinois?

Working with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, youth and shelter residents will present hundreds of signed postcards urging our “Duct Tape Governor” to stop holding up the budget process. Teams of youth and shelter residents will canvass the governor’s neighbors, asking them to sign a postcard or call the governor’s Springfield office to tell him to pass a state budget.

Illinois has not enacted a state budget for 23 months, jeopardizing vital social services, public universities and schools across the state. Ninety percent of homeless service providers have been forced to cut clients, services and staff. More than 1 million people have lost access to critical social services, per a study by the Responsible Budget Coalition.



CCH welcomes new associate director of policy, Mary Tarullo

May 11, 2017

CCH recently welcomed Mary Tarullo to the staff, serving as our new associate director of policy. 

Mary Tarullo

We asked Mary to introduce herself. 

I am thrilled to join CCH’s policy team to continue this renowned organization’s mission to end homelessness.

I got my start fighting for the human right to housing in 2004, as a caseworker for people living on the streets in Chicago. Working with people experiencing homelessness, learning about their stories and the obstacles they face, and being confronted with significant structural barriers as someone who was supposed to be able to house people in need — all motivated me to want to tackle the root causes of homelessness.

In 2005, after graduating from Grinnell College, I became a community organizer through the Americorps VISTA program in Boston, with the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants. I organized Section 8 tenants to preserve their housing, which was at-risk and especially under pressure because of the real estate bubble of the pre-collapse 2000s.

I moved back home to Chicago (actually, I proudly hail from Berwyn) in 2007, when I started organizing with Lakeview Action Coalition (LAC).

While at LAC, I got to work on numerous campaigns to preserve and create affordable housing, including securing 57 units of affordable housing at the Children’s Memorial Hospital redevelopment site. It was the first affordable housing in Lincoln Park in 35 years. We won a $10 million fix to preserve at-risk HUD housing nationally, and organized numerous tenant associations to secure renewal of their Section 8 contracts.

In 2013 LAC merged with Organization of the North East, becoming ONE Northside. At ONE Northside, I staffed the Chicago for All Coalition, which led the effort to enact the city’s Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Preservation Ordinance. CCH was a key player in the coalition, and together, we passed the ordinance in November 2014. Since passage, the policy has preserved nearly 700 SRO units across seven buildings in gentrifying or gentrified communities.

I look forward to building on my 12+ years of experience by fighting for housing and running campaigns at CCH, focusing on citywide initiatives to guarantee the human right to housing for all.

Thirty homeless youth helped at free legal aid and ID clinic

Thirty homeless Chicago youth needing legal aid or help obtaining their birth records received services April 26, during a two-hour clinic organized by the CCH Law Project.

The clinic was staffed by CCH’s Youth Futures mobile legal clinic and by 27 volunteers, including attorneys, from Chase Bank. Teen Living Programs, 5501 S. Indiana Avenue, hosted the event.

Attorneys helped youth, ages 13 through 24, apply for birth certificates. They also helped unaccompanied youth apply for public benefits, such as Medicaid and SNAP food benefits, and advised youth with other legal needs.

Continue reading Thirty homeless youth helped at free legal aid and ID clinic

CCH releases new findings on ‘doubled-up’ homeless families, city pledges new housing resources to help 100 families

A new analysis by Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) shows that 82% of homeless people in Chicago in 2015 sought shelter with relatives and friends, also known as being “doubled-up.”

CCH’s report was released April 20 as its HomeWorks campaign joined the city of Chicago in announcing the city’s new school-based housing initiative. The Housing Homeless Families program will offer permanent housing to 100 homeless families attending six Chicago Public Schools located in high-crime communities.

Continue reading CCH releases new findings on ‘doubled-up’ homeless families, city pledges new housing resources to help 100 families

Ed Shurna to be honored at April 30 event

Ed Shurna with a CCH scholarship winner, Kristen Lang, in 2014.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is proud to report that retired executive director Ed Shurna will be honored at an April Sunday brunch event benefitting the Harmony, Hope & Healing Choir.

The event will be Sunday, April 30, 12:30 p.m., at Galleria Marchetti, 825 W. Erie St., Chicago. Tickets to Heart Beat 2017 are available here.

Ed spent 45 years organizing in Chicago’s neighborhoods, including 20 years with CCH before retiring in 2015. He co-founded the Ignatian Spirituality Project and helped organize Chicago’s Homeless Memorial, held every December at Old St. Pat’s Church. The HHH choir performs at the annual memorial.

Continue reading Ed Shurna to be honored at April 30 event

Many thanks! You helped stop repeal of the Affordable Care Act

Many thanks to our supporters! You joined untold thousands of Americans who phoned, emailed, rallied and posted in strong opposition to the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Republican bill to repeal Pres. Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). Unable to muster enough Republican votes, House Speaker Paul Ryan, after conferring with Pres. Trump, pulled the bill before an already-postponed vote was held Friday.

Among its draconian cutbacks, AHCA would have ended the Medicaid expansion that covers the working poor and older youth and adults experiencing homelessness, giving them life-saving access to medical care and mental health treatment.

Continue reading Many thanks! You helped stop repeal of the Affordable Care Act