Kristen chose ‘better, not bitter’

College gave Kristen Lang “the opportunity to create my next chapter – to be better, not bitter.”

Helped by a scholarship from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Benedict College, an historically black college in South Carolina. She graduated in May with high honors and is making plans to go to graduate school.

Kristen worked hard at Benedict. She was elected to student government, presided over the Phi Beta Lambda business club, and worked for the dean of the business school. She was named Benedict’s “Business Student of the Year” before she graduated, completing her degree on time in four years.

With college came success – “and less worries, as in being able to have a dorm room I could go to every night,” Kristen recalls. “Because in Chicago, I mostly lived house to house. I didn’t have a real home, a loving home, until I was adopted in my senior year of high school.”

Kristen at our June 2018 Scholarship Award Ceremony

Homeless more than six years, Kristen and her sister were left to drift among the homes of various relatives. Despite early difficulties in a household that included her mother’s abusive boyfriend, the family split up when Kristen was in fifth grade, after her mother went to prison for business fraud. Kristen and a sister were sent to live with their father; he struggles with addiction, so the three of them doubled-up with relatives, moving frequently.

“I changed schools four times until I finished eighth grade,” said Kristen. She says she kept up academically, but feeling some resentment as a young teen, she would mouth off to teachers.

“I was a jerk,” she admits. “But after freshman year, I started at After School Matters. There, people paid attention to you. Because I was working to earn money, I didn’t want to get fired, so I had to work on my attitude. If I was smart-alecky, I was corrected. They’d sit you down and ask why are you acting like this? I realized I was mad for lack of a mom.”

Kristen decided to focus on her future and doing well at her South Side high school. Life improved, including longer stays with the family of her father’s cousin, a single mom of three. One of the happiest moments of Kristen’s life was when she was asked to join their family permanently.

“She told me, ‘I’ve been thinking about it and we had a family meeting about it. You’re like a daughter to me and I love you.’ Her name is Tina and she’s a wonderful person. I also lived there in the summer during college and now that I’ve graduated.”

Kristen remembers feeling homesick her first weeks at college. But she made friends and got active in school, later hosting “vision board parties” for students to talk about their goals. She says she realized, “Nobody knew where I came from. All that stuff didn’t matter. I could be the person I wanted to grow into, that I wanted the world to see me as.”

Months since graduating, Kristen works in a Chicago school. She is also making plans to earn graduate degrees that would lead to a career in higher education.

“I want to be Dr. Lang. It rings a bell,” she says, smiling.

– Story by Anne Bowhay / Photo by Allison Williams



StreetLight Chicago: Book-a-Bed option expands as free mobile app for youth completes 2nd year

StreetLight Chicago, a free mobile app of resources for homeless youth, launched two years ago this week – 2,327 people have downloaded the app since then!

Check out the app’s expanded Book-a-Bed feature: Youth can reserve a bed at overnight youth shelters. Eight beds are available at The Crib on Chicago’s North Side and three beds at Ujima Village on the city’s South Side.

Over 700 people use the app or its desktop version every week.

Kudos to our app partner, The Young Invincibles, and to the VNA Foundation for its pivotal support.

StreetLight Chicago is a joint project of the Young Invincibles and the Youth Futures legal aid clinic at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, with generous support from the VNA Foundation.

StreetLight Chicago offers a database of resources for homeless and unaccompanied youth, ages 16 through 24. The app provides youth with a centralized list of drop-in centers, shelters, health clinics, food pantries and services, including Youth Futures. Occasional push notifications are issued when bad weather or program-change alerts are needed.

A desktop version – at – was released in August 2017. It mirrors the app’s resource information, with printable lists and improved navigation for users seeking directions. The website expands access to StreetLight resources for youth without cellphones and makes it easier for service providers to work with youth clients.

Service providers should send any updates for the app to

– Anne Bowhay, Media

Equal Justice Works fellow participates in trial advocacy training

Alyssa Phillips holds a two-year legal fellowship at CCH through Equal Justice Works, a prestigious national program. Alyssa’s fellowship is sponsored by Kirkland & Ellis LLP and AbbVie.

She was among 30 young attorneys participating in a training by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA). The program was held at last week’s Equal Justice Works Leadership Development Conference in Washington, D.C.

We asked Alyssa to report on the conference.

National Institute for Trial Advocacy is the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training. NITA’s model is centered on the concept of learning by doing. The first day of the program the Equal Justice Works fellows selected learned strategies from practicing attorneys and judges about how to write and present opening and closing statements and engage in direct and cross examination within a trial context.

The following day fellows actually participated in a mock trial. Each fellow was assigned a partner and given a fictional case to litigate in front of a judge. The judges then provided feedback and suggestions on how to be more persuasive in a trial setting.

Through the training I learned how to write and present legal arguments in a more effective way. Through the NITA program I learned organizational strategies to more efficiently write legal arguments.

Alyssa Phillips at a Waukegan outreach session.

Having to actually stand up and present the arguments in front of a judge and other attorneys about an area of law with which I am unfamiliar taught me how to be a better orator. The strategies I learned will help me be a better advocate for my clients in and out of court. Hearing constructive criticism from experienced attorneys and judges was a great experience to have early in my career. I am very grateful for the experience.

Alyssa joined the CCH staff in September 2017, where her work includes legal outreach in the suburbs. She is a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School and Wheaton College.

CCH Executive Director named to governor-elect’s transition team committee

CCH Executive Director Doug Schenkelberg has been named to the Healthy Children and Families Committee, part of the transition team for Governor-elect JB Pritzker.


Today, Governor-elect JB Pritzker announced the formation and members of the Healthy Children and Families Committee of the transition team at Children’s Home and Aid, the first social service agency JB visited while considering his run for governor.

The committee is the third of several working groups of the transition made up of subject-matter experts who will advise and guide the incoming Pritzker-Stratton administration. The Healthy Children and Families Committee will be chaired by state Sen. Heather Steans, Howard Brown Health President and CEO David Munar, and Children’s Home and Aid President and CEO Nancy Ronquillo and consist of 36 members.

“Our transition’s Healthy Children and Families Committee will focus on how we should rebuild social services, identify ways we can help children and families build better lives, and expand health care in this state,” said Governor-elect JB Pritzker. “Over the last few years, state funding for community organizations was cut and families were no longer receiving the services they needed to thrive, but we’re going to reverse course. As governor, I’ll be their partner, and together, we’ll confront challenges head on so families and children can thrive.” Continue reading CCH Executive Director named to governor-elect’s transition team committee

Bring Chicago Home takes step forward

Measure that would end homelessness for nearly 36,000 in first 10 years survives often-fatal duel over committee assignment

CCH leaders and staff at City Hall for Nov. 13 Rules Committee meeting

Bucking the odds and the customs of the Chicago City Council, a proposal to dramatically reduce homelessness across Chicago took a step forward Tuesday, despite an opposition bid to bury it.

The legislation was assigned Tuesday to the Rules Committee at the behest of its sponsors, settling a contest among Aldermen over which of the council’s oversight bodies would take stewardship of the matter.

Last week, in two separate meetings, both 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly and 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez challenged attempts to entrust the legislation to the Rules Committee in what was interpreted as moves to inhibit the measure from advancing to the full City Council. Continue reading Bring Chicago Home takes step forward

Bring Chicago Home delayed by aldermen hiding behind parliamentary procedure

Today, for a second time this week, an aldermanic opponent of the Bring Chicago Home campaign attempted to halt our proposal by using a rare parliamentary procedure. The legislation that the Bring Chicago Home coalition introduced must be referred to a City Council committee by the Rules Committee.

The Rules Committee met Monday and today, but recessed both meetings after aldermen who oppose the resolution called to end the meetings for lack of a quorum, or a majority of the committee – a procedure seldom used by the City Council.

Continue reading Bring Chicago Home delayed by aldermen hiding behind parliamentary procedure

CCH welcomes Development Manager Erin Sindewald

Erin Sindewald has joined our staff as Development Manager. We asked Erin to introduce herself.

Erin Sindewald

I am thrilled for the opportunity to work alongside CCH’s passionate staff, partners, and advocates to support housing as a human right.

Early in my career I worked as a case manager at a housing organization, tasked with helping homeless men, women, and families navigate complex and unjust systems. Through this experience, I witnessed countless institutional barriers that made securing and maintaining a safe and affordable place to live incredibly difficult, and often insurmountable.

We as a society must do better. Continue reading CCH welcomes Development Manager Erin Sindewald

Voting: How people experiencing homelessness can register to vote

Updated Nov. 5

By Niya Kelly, State Legislative Director

Illinois residents who are homeless have the right to vote in the state and national election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, even if they are not yet registered to vote. The 2018 election will decide many key offices, including governor, state legislators, and U.S. House members.

If you live on the street, in shelters, or doubled-up in the homes of others, you are considered homeless.

You can check online to see if you’re registered:

Continue reading Voting: How people experiencing homelessness can register to vote

Response to Mayor Emanuel’s comments on our proposal to dramatically reduce homelessness in Chicago

On Wednesday, October 31, 2018, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he opposed a measure introduced in City Council that would raise Chicago’s one-time Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) on the sale of properties valued at more than $1 million to fund programs that would dramatically reduce homelessness in Chicago. Under the proposal, Chicago’s electorate would have an opportunity to vote for this plan as a referendum question on the February 2019 ballot for city elections.  

In response to the Mayor’s statement, the Bring Chicago Home campaign issued the following statement: 

We’re disappointed that Mayor Emanuel rejected an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for the good of Chicago by allowing city voters to act on their desire to combat homelessness. Polls show voters already think alleviating homelessness should be a higher priority for the city, and the urgency to act is only going to escalate if city leaders continue to let the problem languish.

Chicago’s spending on homelessness remains dead-last on a per-capita basis compared to the 10 cities with the largest homeless populations – and next-to-last on the amount of funding per-homeless-person. That’s a troubling record that must change with the next mayor.

This campaign is only beginning, and with the support of more than 30 aldermen – and with public-opinion polling showing that more than two-thirds of city voters favor our solution to the plight of homelessness in Chicago – we’re determined to build on our strengths.

‘Bring Chicago Home’ would end the homelessness that impacts too many in Chicago


Proposed Funding Mechanism Resonates With Voters, According to Poll, Would Shrink Homeless Population by Nearly 36,000 in 10 Years

With more than 80,000 Chicagoans grappling with homelessness – nearly a quarter of them children struggling to stay in school – a broad coalition of policy advocates, elected officials, and community groups embarked today on a campaign to combat the problem, introducing a proposal that the bulk of the city’s likely voters are prepared to support, public opinion research shows.

The Bring Chicago Home campaign will be announced at a 9:30 a.m. press conference today on the second floor of City Hall.

More than three-fourths of likely voters believe the city needs to redouble efforts to combat homelessness – and two-thirds favor a one-time tax on properties sold for $1 million or more to do it – according to a poll conducted for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). Those findings provide an impetus for a City Council measure being introduced October 31 that would seek voter permission to supplement funding for homelessness-relief by instilling a modicum of progressivity into city’s flat tax on real estate sales.

Under the funding formula, Chicago’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) would increase by 1.2 percentage points on properties sold for $1 million or more – a threshold that would not affect 95% of all property owners, based on the average volume of transactions recorded annually. The concept garnered support from 66% of respondents in an April 2018 poll of likely city voters, conducted for CCH by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research.

Continue reading ‘Bring Chicago Home’ would end the homelessness that impacts too many in Chicago