By Niya Kelly
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.