Keith Freeman has joined the CCH staff as a community organizer, working with families and adults living in Chicago shelters.
Before beginning his outreach work in late June, Keith will complete a 45-day orientation that involves interviewing 100 CCH allies and community leaders. Keith succeeds Dollie Brewer, a senior community organizer who retired after working almost 20 years at CCH.
“I will help build capacity, pick up where Dollie left off, and build new shelter relationships,” he said.
Keith comes to CCH after working nine years as the senior job developer at Career Development, Training and Employment Services, 605 S. Albany. The West Side agency is affiliated with the Chicago Area Project (CAP).
But Keith first worked with CCH a decade ago, when he was living at a West Side shelter. After meeting organizers Wayne Richard and Sybill Hippolite, Keith became a community leader for CCH on the Hospital Accountability Project. His efforts included being interviewed by several media outlets, including WGN-TV, on issues impacting homeless people.
Keith also worked in community outreach via a fair trade coffee project that CCH ran in Chicago’s farmers markets. CCH honored Keith after he achieved the project’s all-time sales record, selling more than $10,000 worth of coffee in the 2006 season.
Keith left CCH to work as a job developer in 2007. He helped hard-to-place workers develop the skills to end their barriers to employment, working with clients referred by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Keith enrolled employers and jobs while preparing clients for the demands of landing and holding jobs in health care, security, customer and janitorial services.
“Our goal was not just help people get a job, but help them keep a job,” Keith said. His clients had a success rate of more than 70% holding their job at least 120 days.
Despite high unemployment on Chicago’s West Side, Keith’s agency was hard hit by the state budget crisis – the staff of 22 was cut back to five since last summer. His office handled clients from the local neighborhood and far north suburban Waukegan.
A graduate of Chicago Vocational High School, Keith studied industrial technology at Jackson (Miss.) State University. He has previously completed the community organizer training offered by CCH. Keith lives in west suburban Bellwood.
– Anne Bowhay, Media