Homeless leaders go to Gov. Rauner’s Winnetka mansion, demand budget now


Advisory to our Monday, May 15 action – covered by WGN-TV and ABC7

Who: 85 homeless youth & shelter residents

What: Meet at Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Winnetka house to demand he govern and pass a budget now

Also planned: Brief press conference prior, door-knocking with neighbors to ask their support

Where: Gov. Rauner’s house – Winnetka

On May 15, homeless youth and shelter residents from Chicago, Aurora, Waukegan, and Zion held a press conference outside Gov. Bruce Rauner’s upscale Winnetka mansion – the home of a governor who self-funded an ad campaign that claims Illinois is held together by duct tape.

“Last month, Gov. Rauner aired ads knocking legislators for passing solutions that keep Illinois held together with duct tape,” said Stefano Medansky, a homeless leader from Waukegan, “Truth is, he’s forcing all of us to hold our crumbling communities together with duct tape because he won’t govern and pass a budget.”

Our message: If respected Republican governors Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson could govern and pass state budgets with Speaker Mike Madigan, why can’t Gov. Rauner get the job done for the people of Illinois?

Working with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, youth and shelter residents will present hundreds of signed postcards urging our “Duct Tape Governor” to stop holding up the budget process. Teams of youth and shelter residents will canvass the governor’s neighbors, asking them to sign a postcard or call the governor’s Springfield office to tell him to pass a state budget.

Illinois has not enacted a state budget for 23 months, jeopardizing vital social services, public universities and schools across the state. Ninety percent of homeless service providers have been forced to cut clients, services and staff. More than 1 million people have lost access to critical social services, per a study by the Responsible Budget Coalition.



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

A new 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 April 20 as its HomeWorks campaign joined the city of Chicago in announcing the city’s new school-based housing initiative. The Housing Homeless Families program will offer permanent housing to 100 homeless families attending six Chicago Public Schools located in high-crime communities.

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

College scholarship applications now available

Applications are available online for our 2017 college scholarships, renewable $2,500 awards given by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to graduating high school seniors who experienced homelessness.

Due by Friday, April 14, the application requires two letters of reference and certification signed by a school homeless liaison.

Because of this week’s CPS spring break, students and faculty have until Monday, April 17 to submit a supplementary document, such as an applicant’s grade report, teacher recommendation, or liaison certification. But a student’s own application, with essay questions, must be submitted by April 14.

2016-17 college scholarship recipients

Who’s eligible to apply? Graduating seniors from Chicago and suburban schools who were homeless at some point while attending high school, as verified by the student’s school. This includes unaccompanied youth who were living on their own without a parent or guardian. Youth leaders, to age 22, who are active with CCH also are eligible. Up to five new recipients will be selected.

Following interviews, scholarships will be presented during an awards event in late June.

To showcase the promise and tenacity of aspiring college students who lived with homelessness while in high school, our Law Project created the scholarship program in 2004. The program was the next step for a legal aid program that focuses its casework on helping homeless students and youth. Patricia Rivera, then director of the Chicago Public Schools’ Homeless Education Program, collaborated with CCH in creating the scholarship, and was the first of the private donors and funders to support the scholarships.

CCH scholarships are funded by private donations given to the program, and from the Osa Foundation, Susan W. Pearson Memorial Fund, and the Student Alliance for Homeless Youth.

For further information, please contact Roberto Martinez of the Law Project.

Homeless youth in Chicago have help from a free mobile phone app

streetlight-chicago-imageStreetLight Chicago is a new, free mobile phone app designed for use by homeless youth and the social service providers that support this vulnerable population.

Launched Nov. 14, this mobile app gives timely information about the resources available to help youth, through age 24, who are homeless and living on their own.

Chicago is home to thousands of homeless youth, including 2,396 unaccompanied teens living on their own who were enrolled in Chicago Public Schools last year.

Listings include health care services, overnight shelters, drop-in centers, and legal aid programs that serve Chicago youth. The app also sends push notifications for weather emergencies, program closings, and other issues vital to youth on the street.

Many homeless youth use or share smartphones, relying on phones to connect them with services, jobs, or school, and their personal support network. Youth apps are in use in several U.S. cities, including the Twin Cities, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles.

“We’ve had too many young homeless clients not know where to turn for medical care, a shelter, or how to find an attorney who can help acquire the legal identification they need to get a job,” said Youth Futures health attorney Graham Bowman. 

Youth Futures, a mobile legal aid clinic for homeless youth at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, partnered with staff of The Young Invincibles, which designed the free app. Generous project funding was given by the VNA Foundation.

“Too often our city’s most vulnerable youth are left guessing if and where they may be able to get crucial supports. This can have grave consequences as we enter the winter season,” said Erin Steva, Midwest Director of The Young Invincibles.

 “We are excited that from the very first day it hits the streets, the app will be helping some of the most vulnerable among us access what most of us take for granted: food, shelter and healthcare,” said Robert DiLeonardi, VNA Foundation’s executive director.

Service providers that want to offer content updates for the app can email streetlightchicago@gmail.com


Chicago Bar Foundation: Honoring young legal aid attorneys, including CCH’s Graham Bowman

Five outstanding legal aid attorneys became the final class of the Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) Sun-Times Public Interest Law Fellows, including CCH youth health attorney Graham Bowman.

As he told the bar foundation, Graham enrolled at Loyola University Chicago School of Law determined to use his law license to fight poverty.

In his three years with the Law Project at CCH, first as a two-year Equal Justice Works Fellow and currently as a Youth Futures staff attorney, Graham has served scores of unaccompanied and homeless youth, many with disabilities and severe health needs.

In addition to representing individuals experiencing homelessness in approximately 175 healthcare and public benefits cases per year, Graham drafts and advocates for legislation that promotes access to quality healthcare for homeless youth. His most successful legislation, which passed in 2014, allows unaccompanied homeless youth over the age of 14 to consent to their primary health care.

The Sun-Times Fellowships made it more manageable for 50 legal aid lawyers to continue their careers in legal aid in the face of significant student debt loads.

First awarded in 2007, this is the tenth and final year the CBF awarded the Sun-Times Fellowships. Through a generous $2 million cy pres award from a case involving the Chicago Sun-Times, in 2006 the CBF was able to create this 10-year Fellowship Program to provide significant loan repayment assistance to 50 legal aid attorneys in Chicago and throughout Illinois. Over 92% of the CBF’s Sun-Times Fellows remain in public service today.

Lesley Arizmendi, Virginia Torres, Adrian Barr, CCH youth attorney Graham Bowman, and Samoane Williams
From left, Lesley Arizmendi, Virginia Torres, Adrian Barr, CCH youth attorney Graham Bowman, and Samoane Williams

The fellowship addresses a crisis facing lawyers in our community who are increasingly finding that a career in legal aid and public service is simply untenable from an economic standpoint. Lawyers graduating today typically have mortgage-sized law school debt while working for relatively modest salaries at pro bono and legal aid organizations.

The Fellowships are awarded to legal aid attorneys who demonstrate a commitment to public interest work, academic achievement in law school, and outstanding character and integrity. This year’s class of Sun-Times Fellows will each receive $20,000 in loan repayment assistance over five years to help them continue their careers in legal aid.

“This groundbreaking fellowship Program made it possible for 50 legal aid attorneys to more realistically manage their law school debt while working for what are relatively modest public service salaries,” said Bob Glaves, executive director of The Chicago Bar Foundation. “Of the 50 Fellows, more than 90% of them have remained in public service, which is both a testament to the success of this program and their strong commitment and dedication to serving others in our community.”

The other 2016 recipients are Lesley Arizmendi, Equip for Equality and Southwestern Law School, J.D.; Adrian Barr, Prairie State Legal Services and University of Illinois College of Law, J.D.; Virginia Torres, Life Span and Loyola, J.D.; and Samoane Williams, First Defense Legal Aid and Michigan State University College of Law, J.D.

Each of the five fellowship recipients provides vital services to low-income and disadvantaged members of our community. This year’s outstanding attorneys have helped victims of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, including people institutionalized in mental health facilities; low-income people and seniors; homeless youth; survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault; and people in Chicago Police Department custody prior to the appointment of a public defender.

“We are excited to conclude the 10-year CBF Sun-Times Fellowship Program with such an impressive and inspiring group of legal aid attorneys. With their achievements, these attorneys could have chosen a more lucrative career path, but instead chose to make significant financial sacrifices to serve the people in our community who are in most critical need of the protections of the justice system,” said David Mann, Chair of the Sun-Times Public Interest Law Fellowship Selection Committee. “The CBF Sun-Times Fellowship aims to help alleviate the financial challenges that come with their daunting student debt loads and make it more manageable for these dedicated attorneys to continue their careers in legal aid.”

Adela Carlin, who just celebrated her 16th anniversary at LAF and received a Sun-Times Fellowship in 2012, is just one example of the impact of this Fellowship. In Adela’s words, “I cried when I got the call because up until that moment, I did not know how I would ever finish paying my law school loans. This award has changed our family and allowed me to think about the future in ways I couldn’t imagine possible. I am able to do so because of the support of people who believe in access to justice. I am thankful for the moral and financial support which allows be to be a community lawyer.”

Chicago Public School layoffs hit homeless students

Chicago Public School layoffs of more than 500 teachers and 500 support staff will disproportionately impact homeless students. Last school year, CPS identified 18,831 homeless students, which was 4.8% of its total enrollment.

Homelessness often has significant negative impacts on students — academically, socially, and emotionally. Homeless students face greater barriers to enrollment, attendance, and success in school than their housed peers.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) took a closer look at the 19 schools hardest hit by the layoffs announced August 8. In these schools, which lost eight (8) or more staff, we found:

* Six (31.5%) of the 19 highly impacted schools had more than 80 homeless students enrolled last school year. But schools with 80 or more homeless students comprise only 7% of all CPS schools.

* On average, the homeless enrollment of these highly impacted schools was more than 10%.

* Nearly 5.5% of the total number of homeless students were enrolled in a highly impacted school. Only 4% of the overall CPS population is in a highly impacted school. Meaning, homeless students are 38% more likely to attend a highly impacted school than their housed peers.

School staff, including liaisons for homeless students, teachers, social workers, counselors and other staff, provide critical service to support the success of homeless children and youth. Students living in shelters and other temporary living situations will be harmed by the loss of experienced teachers and staff and bigger class sizes as a result of these layoffs.

Cutting services to highly vulnerable homeless children and youth is the wrong place to cut.

Highly Impact Schools-Website

CCH used layoff data from the Chicago Tribune’s CPS Layoffs by School to do its analysis.

-By Hannah Willage, Associate Director of Organizing, and Patricia Nix-Hodes, Director of the Law Project, with contributions by Community Organizer Jayme Robinson.

CCH Video: Sofas

Have you see this digital short story by Wayne Richard? Wayne is CCH’s associate organizing director for training development. His work includes running Horizons, an outreach program that encourages shelter residents to express themselves through creative writing. About 100 people participate each year, most of them mothers living at family shelters in Chicago.

Order from Flowers for Dreams, support CCH!

Thelma and Dasia show off a Flowers for Dreams bouquet
Thelma and Dasia show off a Flowers for Dreams “Winter” arrangement. 

We’re grateful to announce that Flowers for Dreams has selected the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to be its charity of the month during December.

The Chicago florist shares 25% of its profits with charity, selecting a different non-profit beneficiary every month.

Since 2012, Flowers for Dreams has donated $104,697 to more than 45 charities across the city!

Recent beneficiaries include the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, The Chicago Lighthouse, One Tail at a Time Dog Rescue, Working Bikes, and Noah’s Arc Foundation.

Gloria and Ali share two lovely arrangements.
Gloria and Ali share two lovely bouquets.

Flowers for Dreams is known for unique and beautiful floral arrangements, straight-forward pricing, and free delivery within city limits. Arrangement also are delivered outside the city for a $10 charge. Bouquets start at $35.

Call (312) 620-1410 to order, stop in its shop at 1812 W. Hubbard, or check out the possibilities on the Flowers for Dreams website.