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Statewide Advocacy

CCH leaders rally in Springfield (Photo by Jaime Michelle Schmitz)

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless does not accept government funding.

Instead, when CCH advocates for public support, it is for the programs that shelter, house and assist homeless youth, students, families and vulnerable adults.

As we see in spring 2016, the Illinois budget crisis does not seem to have an end in sight despite the dire effects impacting  vulnerable people.

In partnership with Housing Action Illinois, CCH drafted an emergency appropriations bill that would fully fund housing and homeless services. Because of the budget crisis, Illinois has not paid housing and homeless service providers since June 2015.  Many of these agencies have emptied their reserve coffers, laid off staff and cut services to stay afloat while awaiting payment for services delivered this year.

We drafted legislation that would immediately appropriate homeless and housing funds already set aside in special, dedicated funds.  We project that $274.7 million is sitting in eight dedicated funds that are non-budget related funds. The legislation – House Bill 4955 (Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch) and Senate Bill 2603 (Sen. Mattie Hunter) also includes $35.3 million in General Revenue funding, which would fully fund homeless and housing line items. The bills have 35 House co-sponsors and 19 Senate co-sponsors.

As a leader in the statewide Responsible Budget Coalition, CCH worked to organize an action in Springfield in response to the Governor’s 2016 State of the State address in January. Six hundred service providers and their clients, including 50 leaders from CCH, traveled to the capitol to deliver The State of Our State.  This advocacy event drew attention to the continued suffering of the people served and the need for the immediate passage of a fully funded budget.

Legislators and reporters told us that huge protest was unlike any they had witnessed in a long time. Our chants could be heard by legislators as the governor gave his speech, CCH’s yellow shirts visible as news cameras captured the governor leaving the chamber.

As an organization we understand the importance of not only providing the facts and figures as we push for the passage of a budget that addresses the needs of homeless people. We also provide the opportunity for those who are directly impacted the chance to advocate for themselves and others in their situation.

Responsible Budget Coalition

As lead partner in the Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC), CCH recognizes that budgets are a reflection of government priorities. RBC partners advocate for graduated income tax rates based on income earned that are fairer and create the revenue needed by public schools, human services, public safety and health care.

RBC also advocated for legislation to extend the 5% state income tax rate, but the General Assembly failed to act. Without an extension, the income tax rate dropped to 3.75% in January 2015, creating a multi-billion dollar shortfall. This budget crisis seriously threatens human services, schools and other critical public agencies. CCH and RBC partners continue to push for a responsible state budget in FY16 that includes new revenue support.

For the state’s last enacted budget, FY15, CCH succeeded in advocating against more than $7 million in proposed cutbacks. Instead, Illinois maintained level funding for homeless programs, with a $1 million increase in youth funding (to $5.6 million). This was achieved despite a legislative session embroiled in a deepening state budget crisis.

With 16 advocacy days in Springfield during 2015, CCH organizers trained and transported 463 people to Springfield – they included 388 homeless/recently homeless leaders, and 75 student and community leaders. They were affiliated with 35 service providers, schools and universities that work with CCH. All told personal stories of what these services have meant for their lives.

Our leaders traveled from Aurora, Bellwood, Bolingbrook, Champaign, Naperville, Palos Heights, Waukegan, Wheaton, and neighborhoods all over Chicago.

CCH advocated with ally groups including Housing Action Illinois, Supportive Housing Providers Association, All Chicago, and Heartland Alliance. For more information, contact Policy Specialist Niya Kelly.