More than 100 community leaders, elected officials, and coalition members gathered at Grace Episcopal Church on January 22 to celebrate CCH’s accomplishments over the past year.
The evening began with opening remarks from Maxica Williams, President of CCH’s Board of Directors and a longtime grassroots leader with the coalition.
“Through advocating, lobbying, and working hard, the accomplishments for 2023 were plentiful, unique, trendsetting, and successful moves in the right direction to eliminating some of the outdated laws and policies that were direct barriers that have led to homelessness,” shared Maxica.
The event featured an awards presentation to recognize some of the people key to CCH’s recent successes as well as a poetry performance by Brian Rodgers and Taishi Neuman. Brian and Ms. Neuman presented poems they wrote as part of Horizons, a creative writing program that amplifies participants’ advocacy efforts by cultivating their artistic talents and storytelling skills.
The evening concluded with a slideshow presentation and ceremony honoring CCH’s grassroots leaders, people with lived experience of homelessness who guide our advocacy efforts.
Award Winners & Honorees
For Advocacy on Bring Chicago Home
Alderwoman Maria Hadden
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
Alderman Matt Martin
Mayor Brandon Johnson
After five years of shared advocacy, the Bring Chicago Home (BCH) coalition achieved a crucial win on the path to victory: securing our referendum question on the March 2024 ballot. BCH proposes restructuring Chicago’s real estate transfer tax to create a dedicated revenue stream, with funds earmarked to developing permanent housing with services.
The advocacy of Mayor Brandon Johnson and his administration – alongside Alds. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Matt Martin (47th), and Maria Hadden (49th) – were key to getting Bring Chicago Home on the March ballot. They worked collaboratively with the BCH coalition to negotiate a strong proposal, while also dedicating many hours and resources to get 32 alderpersons to approve bringing BCH to voters this spring.
“We couldn’t have gotten to where we are without the strong partnership between our coalition and these elected officials,” said Mary Tarullo, CCH’s Associate Director of Policy and Strategy.
For Championing Reforms to the TANF Program
Representative Marcus Evans
Senator Adriane Johnson
Since the federal government dismantled public benefits in 1996 under the guise of “personal responsibility,” many advocates have stepped up to reimagine and rebuild a social safety net that supports all people with dignity. Representative Marcus Evans and Senator Adriane Johnson are two such advocates. For several years, they have worked with CCH on improvements to TANF in Illinois, a cash assistance program for families living in extreme poverty.
Thanks to their steadfast advocacy, Illinois recently ended the harmful policy of the state intercepting child support paid to families receiving TANF. Now parents working to support their children will no longer be forced to decide between receiving child support or temporary TANF grants.
This policy change was included as a provision within a supplemental budget implementation bill, which was passed during the state’s 2023 lame-duck session. A small increase to the TANF grant amount was also included in the state’s budget implementation bill, to 35% of the federal poverty level (from 30%).
“Whether it was Leader Evans making sure we were able to get a hearing in the House and receive bipartisan support on the floor, or Senator Johnson calling the agency to task and making sure everyone understood the importance of these reforms, they both showed up as amazing advocates and sponsors,” shared Niya Kelly, Director of State Legislative Advocacy, Equity and Transformation.
For Advocacy in Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness
Representative Katie Stuart
Senator Karina Villa
People often say that “knowledge is power.” This is true both for students and for the school personnel tasked with teaching and supporting them. With leadership from Representative Katie Stuart and Senator Karina Villa, CCH passed HB 3116: Learning to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness into law last session. This measure creates a new pathway for teachers, administrators, and other school employees to better serve students by requiring Illinois school boards to conduct in-service trainings on how to support students experiencing homelessness.
CCH legal and policy staff will support implementation of this legislation by developing the training curriculum.
“We know that with better support services, students experiencing homelessness have better outcomes and are more likely to stay in school and complete their educations,” said Niya Kelly.
For Championing Housing for Returning Citizens
Senator Christopher Belt
Representative Lilian Jiménez
People returning home from incarceration often share that their primary concern is identifying safe and stable housing. In collaboration with the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI) and with leadership from Senator Christopher Belt and Representative Lilian Jimenez, CCH passed SB 1367: Public Housing Access Bill (PHAB).
Originally passed into law in 2021, PHAB created standards for Illinois Public Housing Authorities to use in the criminal background screening process. SB 1367 amended the bill’s language to ensure the law operates as intended. Changes include shortening look-back periods, expanding the term “public housing” to include any program that receives federal funding, and allowing applicants to present mitigating circumstances.
“Representative Jimenez and Senator Belt both stepped up and brought this bill across the finish line,” said Niya Kelly. “Thank you for your advocacy.”
Impact Litigation Win: Campos v. City of Chicago
The Law Project partnered with the law firm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP and the ACLU of Illinois on a federal civil rights case filed in May 2022. The lawsuit alleged that plaintiff Julie Campos – then 19 and working toward securing housing stability for herself and her young son – was physically assaulted, falsely arrested, and detained by the Chicago Police Department while cleaning up property damage at her place of employment in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Shortly after the filing of the lawsuit, the officer who assaulted her separated from the Chicago Police Department. This was very important to Ms. Campos as one of her goals was to get the officer off the street so he wouldn’t mistreat others.
While these types of cases typically take years to reach a resolution, we were able to get a favorable settlement for our client in a very quick time frame. Ms. Campos received substantial, undisclosed monetary damages as part of the settlement finalized in February 2023. We credit this success to the fact that we had an outstanding, well-rounded legal team and a courageous client.
For Courage in Pursuing Justice
“Ms. Campos went through a very traumatic situation that she had to recount to multiple people in different settings. She had the courage to call out police misconduct publicly by filing this lawsuit and sharing her story. That is not easy to do, and we want to recognize Julie Campos for her courage in pursuing justice.” – Arturo Hernandez, Senior Attorney
For Legal Advocacy and Dedication in Campos v. City of Chicago
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP
Robert Hermes, Andrew Shapiro, Katherine Walton, & Angela Kubacki
“The law firm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP contributed a great deal of resources to co-counseling Campos v. City of Chicago, including assigning attorneys with extensive litigation experience along with support staff. We are thankful for their commitment to pro bono work over the years on behalf of Law Project clients and especially in this case. We would like to recognize the team from Porter Wright for their pro bono advocacy.” – Patricia Nix-Hodes, Director of the Law Project
ACLU of Illinois
Joshua Levin, Alexandra Block, & Michelle Garcia
“We were fortunate to partner with the ACLU in this case. With the ACLU of Illinois on the legal team, we had attorneys with subject matter expertise in identifying and working to address harmful policing practices and policies that lack accountability for police abuse and misconduct. We are very glad we had them on our team and would like to honor the team from the ACLU for their dedication to the case.” – Arturo Hernandez, Senior Attorney
Associate Board Leadership
For Service as Vice President of the Associate Board and Continued Leadership
For Service as President of the Associate Board and Continued Leadership
The Associate Board of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless was formed in 2008 as a way to cultivate leadership and support among younger generations. Synonyms for associate include ally, comrade, and accomplice. Sara Szwankowski and Ebony Thompson have exemplified all these roles and more during their leadership tenure on CCH’s Associate Board.
Sara and Ebony took on the mantle of President and Vice President in 2020, just as in-person gatherings were put on hold due to the pandemic. Despite these challenges, the duo successfully grew the camaraderie of the Board with skill and passion and shifted to over a year of virtual fundraising events.
They have also strived to intentionally incorporate racial equity into the Associate Board’s work, aligned with CCH’s ongoing efforts in this space. During Ebony and Sara’s three years at the helm, the Associate Board raised over $130,000 to support CCH’s mission, culminating with helping to mobilize our largest and most successful team of Giving Tuesday ambassadors ever this past year.
“I am most happy to stand up here and say that this moment isn’t a farewell type recognition for either Sara or Ebony,” said Michael Nameche, CCH Director of Development. “They have both transitioned to other focus areas of leadership on the AB’s exec team and it is my sincere hope that they stick around for years to come.”