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

An 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 as its HomeWorks campaign joined the city of Chicago in April to announce the city’s new school-based housing initiative. The program will offer permanent housing and support services to 100 homeless families attending six Chicago Public Schools (CPS) located in high-crime communities.

By November, 75 families were identified as qualifying for permanent housing through the program, known as Housing Support for CPS Families in Transition, or FIT.  Continue reading CCH releases findings on ‘doubled-up’ homeless families, city offers new housing resources to help 100 families

Free birth records for people experiencing homelessness, under new state law advocated by CCH

A new state law to provide free birth certificates for people experiencing homelessness is another example of “access to records” advocacy by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

A similar measure enacted by the Cook County Board covers homeless people as well as residents of domestic violence shelters and people released from incarceration within the previous 90 days. The county ordinance was effective upon adoption in April. The statewide measure will take effect January 1, 2018.

Access to one’s birth certificate is a key issue for many who are homeless, particularly unaccompanied youth living on their own.   Continue reading Free birth records for people experiencing homelessness, under new state law advocated by CCH

Rachel Ramirez writes on her organizing training in Central Europe

Returning from her travels this month in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, Senior Community Organizer Rachel Ramirez shares her insights and experiences during an international exchange program for organizers. 

She writes:

Rachel Ramirez

In Hungary, community organizers face a populist political climate in which their motives are questioned by a government suspicious of foreign influence and funding, including and especially that of George Soros, a Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist. Even after winning several local issues related to bus transportation, one local organizer related that he was questioned by local community members about whether his organization was funded by Soros and other international donors. They had heard about such influence on the government-controlled media. With true organizer bravado and political sense, he reported to have responded, “Yes we receive international funding. Does the bus now stop in front of your house?” It did, thanks to his organizing efforts with the people of that community.  Continue reading Rachel Ramirez writes on her organizing training in Central Europe

Action Alert: Tell Gov. Rauner to oppose the latest ACA repeal bill

With the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill moving fast, we need your help to stop this new effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If an Obamacare repeal bill passes with a simple majority in the U.S. Senate next week, it is expected to sail through the GOP-led U.S. House.

Millions would lose health insurance coverage under Graham-Cassidy, a bill many are calling the most harmful repeal measure yet. Homeless and low-income adults would immediately lose coverage in Medicaid expansion states, including Illinois. It would eliminate insurance subsidies paid to moderate-income workers who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Over time, families and children could also lose coverage. Illinois is projected to lose $8 billion in federal Medicaid funding by 2026, $153 billion by 2036.  Continue reading Action Alert: Tell Gov. Rauner to oppose the latest ACA repeal bill

Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez offers training in Central Europe

Rachel Ramirez offers organizer training in Hungary

Senior Community Organizer Rachel Ramirez traveled to Hungary, Romania and Slovakia this month, training and collaborating with service providers interested in learning more about community organizing.

The Great Lakes Consortium (GLC) for International Training and Development offers the organizing exchange between the U.S. and Central Europe.  Continue reading Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez offers training in Central Europe

Lawsuit will continue that contends Uptown viaduct redesign discriminates against homeless people

Attorneys for homeless residents evicted from living in tents under the Wilson and Lawrence avenue viaducts will continue a lawsuit contesting the discriminatory redesign of Uptown viaducts, now undergoing reconstruction.

At a court hearing Monday, attorneys that include the CCH Law Project withdrew a request for a temporary restraining order, noting that the issue was moot because the hearing was set several hours after the city carried out the 7 a.m. eviction.

The lawsuit contends the re-design violates the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights because it “discriminates against (viaduct residents) solely because they are homeless. The city’s current design plans were drawn with the purpose of intentionally preventing plaintiffs and other homeless individuals from returning to the viaducts after the repairs are complete.”  Continue reading Lawsuit will continue that contends Uptown viaduct redesign discriminates against homeless people

Monday press conference: City to evict Uptown viaduct residents with no alternative

WHEN: Monday, September 18, 7 a.m.

WHAT: Press conference convened by homeless encampment residents of the viaducts on Lake Shore Drive at Wilson and Lawrence avenues. Residents received a 30-day notice that they must vacate the premises by September 18 at 7 a.m. due to viaduct repairs.

Residents who will be displaced have been calling for a housing alternative as well as a re-design of the viaducts that does not discriminate against homeless people. The current re-design puts bike lanes on the sidewalks, which is less safe for pedestrians, bikes, and cars, and which is discriminatory toward homeless people. The city has met neither of these demands.

Residents will speak to the press about their campaign, the city’s lack of response, and their plans moving forward.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, residents will be in Courtroom 2508 of the Daley Center regarding their complaint filed by CCH against the city of Chicago, pursuant to the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.

WHERE: Wilson Avenue and Lake Shore Drive

WHO: Homeless residents of the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), and ONE Northside

For more information:

Mary Tarullo, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless:

Angelica Sanchez, ONE Northside:


CCH continues Riot Fest partnership this weekend

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is proud to be the official charity partner for Riot Fest Chicago, for the sixth year in a row. The three-day music festival and carnival will hold its 12th Chicago extravaganza this Friday through Sunday, Sept. 18 – 20, in Chicago’s Douglas Park, at Roosevelt Road and California Avenue.  Continue reading CCH continues Riot Fest partnership this weekend

Rachel Ramirez: The community organizing model of organizational leadership

In June, Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez’ research — titled “The community organizing model of organizational leadership” — was awarded “Best Abstract” by a panel of judges at the the Chicago Universities for Public Policy Research Symposium at Northwestern University.

Rachel originally submitted this research for her master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration at Northwestern, which she completed in 2016 while working full-time at CCH. 

By Rachel Ramirez

Rachel Ramirez

I began my organizing career about seven years ago under the guidance of an organizer who amazed me by seeing the possibility for transformative social change in every issue, no matter how terrible or unjust. What I didn’t realize was that as his mentee, I myself was a participant in and beneficiary of the “community organizing model of leadership” from day one. As a novice Midwest Academy intern, I would come back to the office from the field with information on the issues and social problems that community members identified during our one-on-one conversations. My early mentor would ask me questions, push back, motivate me, and send me back out into the field to keep doing the work myself. Like most new organizers, I felt lost, frustrated, and energized as I witnessed and helped to unfold a successful campaign to prevent the total loss of public medical care in an impoverished Chicago community.

The capacity of organizing to “turn pain into power” (a refrain often used by CCH leader Leeanna Majors) and to create real change against the tide of the status quo continues to captivate me, and to be underestimated by almost everyone outside of the organizing field. Organizers know how to grow the leadership of people who are often overlooked, foster creative teams, and help and guide people into strategic battle in the public arena. Organizers are rarely seen as “leaders” in the traditional sense, because, just as my mentor was doing in my first summer of organizing, we lead from behind. It was the realization during my graduate school program in Public Policy and Administration that organizing is underappreciated and misunderstood in both the public and private sectors that agitated me to research and write about the organizing model of leadership, and I am pleased that I have been able to share it in writing and in presentations with organizers and non-organizers alike.

My master’s thesis poses the first known model of organizational leadership based on organizing practices. This research uses a grounded theory approach, including the development of a visual model, to synthesize the perspectives of seven experienced Chicago-based community organizers and the existing literature to create a community organizing model of organizational leadership. Findings show that while the community organizing model shares commonalities with both the servant leadership and transformative leadership models, community organizing practices constitute a unique model of leadership because of their emphasis on public power. Building a more powerful organization is the baseline for all community organizing leadership objectives, practices and skills of community organizers. A powerful organization allows the development of community leaders to lead to efficacy in the public arena via strategic campaigns.

It is not my organizer’s ego that compels me to want to make the organizing model of leadership more widely known. Most organizers, myself included, do not desire to be “seen” by the traditional power structures that we are helping to bend to the will of the people. However, organizing is direly needed in conflict situations across the United States and the globe, to help people work together to transform their society and achieve what they need through effective, nonviolent means. And the benefits to organizing of becoming a more widely respected field include a broader stream of funding and of talented aspiring organizers. I hope to continue to contribute as both a practitioner and a researcher in order to help our field grow to meet the challenges of our time, and to help lead more individuals onto this path of social change as my first mentor did for me.



New youth health attorney, Equal Justice Works fellow join the legal staff

The Law Project at CCH welcomed two attorneys to its legal team in September.

From left, Alyssa Phillips and Tanya Gassenheimer (Photo by Claire Sloss)

Tanya T. Gassenheimer serves as the Youth Futures health attorney. Alyssa Phillips holds a two-year Equal Justice Works fellowship, focused on assisting children and teens facing educational barriers.  Continue reading New youth health attorney, Equal Justice Works fellow join the legal staff