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 www.keepwarm.illinois.gov

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.” https://www.nlchp.org/documents/HUD-PIT-report2017 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!

CCH enacts ‘Three Steps Home’ legislative package for homeless and at-risk youth

Three bills to assist homeless youth — a CCH legislative package called Three Steps Home — have been enacted. All will take effect January 1, 2018.

Two measures were passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. They will allow minors to access transitional housing as well as obtain counseling without requiring the consent of a parent or guardian.

A third measure, the College Hunger bill, faced an amendatory veto by the governor and was in the process of being reintroduced. But the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) instead adopted a rule change in November that will allow low-income vocational students at community colleges to apply for SNAP food benefits.

State Legislative Director Niya Kelly spearheaded advocacy by CCH, including support from the 38-agencies on its Youth Committee. Services to homeless and at-risk youth have often been limited due to their young age and vulnerable circumstances.

HB3212 – Housing for Homeless Minors

Until HB3212 takes effect on January 1, homeless minors can stay in a youth transitional housing program for only 21 days before they must return home, move in with a relative, or go into the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Often, youth cycle through their 21 days, leave for a few days, and ultimately return to the program.

This legislation establishes a pathway for 16- and 17-year-old minors to find stable housing. They would be permitted to consent to their own housing and services with a DCFS-licensed youth transitional housing program when parental consent cannot be obtained. CCH worked with homeless youth service providers, Illinois Collaboration on Youth, and state agencies in drafting the legislation. Sponsors were State Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) and State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).

HB3212/SB1994 Fact Sheet

HB3709 – Increasing Access to Counseling Services

Youth can struggle in discussing their problems with parents or guardians. For this reason, Illinois law allows minors over age 12 to consent to counseling on their own. But until HB3709 takes effect on January 1,  young people are limited to only five sessions, too few for youth that may not be ready to talk to their parents about personal struggles.

HB3709 increased the allotted number of sessions from five 45-minute sessions to eight 90-minute sessions. For minors unable to get parental consent, due to homelessness or possible dangers in getting parental consent, a counselor would be allowed to continue services after eight sessions. Consent would not be required for youth who reach age 17.

The legislation was drafted by CCH’s then-youth health attorney, Graham Bowman.

Said Dr. Niranjan S. Karnik, a leading psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center, “Providers are in a good position to help heal families by working with youth who are running away, homeless or otherwise estranged. This legislation expands the possibility for youth to seek help from licensed providers, get short-term support, and it often leads to reunification with their families.”

Increasing the number of counseling visits gives youth the opportunity to build rapport with a counselor, giving youth a safe space to begin healing. Sponsors were Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester).

HB3709 Fact Sheet

SB351- Food Insecurity on College Campuses/College Hunger Bill

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

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP food stamps program, can reduce food insecurity, but students attending college half-time or more have been ineligible. This legislation allows low-income community college students enrolled in vocational-track programs to further their education while having food security.

As HB3211, the SNAP bill passed the House, 85-25, in March, and the Senate, 50-1, in May. Gov. Rauner later issued an amendatory veto, saying he did not believe the Illinois Student Assistance Commission should be required to assist with implementation.

So a new bill – Senate Bill 351 – was introduced this fall. Called the “College Hunger bill,” it passed the Illinois Senate by a 54-1 vote on Oct. 25. But the measure failed to progress in 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. An estimated 40,000 students could qualify.

CCH advocated this measure with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights. Sponsors were Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) and Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield).

HB3211 Fact Sheet

Many of the 38 youth-serving agencies on CCH’s Homeless Youth Committee endorsed these statewide measures. Twenty-five member agencies are located in Chicago, 13 in the suburbs and downstate.


By Nov. 30: Join our Chicago Marathon ‘Team to End Homelessness’

CCH is proud to be an affiliate charity for the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 7, 2018. We are recruiting our next Team to End Homelessness, offering a limited number of guaranteed entries to the race.

The Chicago Marathon’s team sign-up deadline is Thursday, Nov. 30.

Runners will be required to set a $1,000 minimum fundraising goal, to be raised online in conjunction with their race training.

Continue reading By Nov. 30: Join our Chicago Marathon ‘Team to End Homelessness’