Going to Riot Fest? Stop by the CCH tent in Douglas Park to win signed music memorabilia

For the eighth year, CCH is proud to be a charity partner of Riot Fest, a three day music festival and carnival held in Chicago’s Douglas Park.

This year’s festival runs Friday, September 13 through Sunday, September 15.  Tickets are still available at www.riotfest.org

Here is a map of where to find our tent!

CCH collects autographed memorabilia and other prizes from the musical acts playing the festival and offers fans a chance to win them. This year we are excited to present 11 signed guitars from acts like Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Violent Femmes, and more. Concert posters, albums, drumheads – if you collect memorabilia, you owe it to yourself to check our tent out!

Photos of many of the prizes can be found on CCH’s Riot Fest Instagram page HERE.

We are so grateful to the hard working people at Riot Fest for making CCH a staple of this event.

– Michael Nameche, Director of Development

Bring Chicago Home: Aldermen denounce the high number of homeless CPS students on the South Side and West Side, call on Mayor Lightfoot to support an immediate solution

As another school year begins this week, data released today shows that homelessness remains a major issue for students in Chicago’s public education system — particularly in wards with predominantly African American populations. This data has prompted several aldermen with the highest numbers of homeless students in their wards to urge Mayor Lori Lightfoot to support a dedicated funding stream to combat the problem.

Alderman Walter Burnett – Photos by Sam Carlson

“Everyone is very concerned about the budget deficit right now and I am as well,” said Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward). “But the underfunding of housing and support services that has left thousands of children in our schools homeless is also part of our budget hole. It is time to make addressing homelessness a priority in our city and in our budget.”

The top 10 city wards with the highest numbers of homeless students, all on the South Side and West Side, have schools attended by 8,250 homeless students, or 50% of all the identified homeless students citywide. The homeless student population in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is disproportionately African-American: 81.2% of homeless students were black, 15.6% Latinx, 1.7% white, and 1.5% other ethnicities in 2018-19. Among the whole student body, only 36.6% of students were African-American.

Bring Chicago Home fact sheet: Students Experiencing Homelessness in Chicago Public Schools

Almost 90% of homeless CPS students are temporarily sharing housing with others due to a loss of housing. HUD does not recognize this form of homelessness, often called “doubled-up,” and therefore the vast majority of CPS students cannot access federal programs to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Alderman Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward), with Ald. Burnett and Carols DeJesus Rivera

“As a former high school principal and homeless service provider, I have seen first-hand how homelessness creates an impossible environment for students to study and perform,” said Carlos DeJesus Rivera, Director of Housing Special Initiatives at the Center for Housing and Health. “We need a permanent solution to this problem that has plagued the city for years. The solution is significant, dedicated, local funding to meet the needs of the 16,451 CPS students who are without a safe, permanent place to call home.”

Chicago Sun-Times: ‘The kids and I were sleeping in the car’: CPS parents, students talk about being homeless, urge Lightfoot to keep campaign promise

WTTW: Alderman, advocates want city tax to support homeless students, families

Chicago Tribune: In Chicago, more than 16,000 students are homeless, new report says: ‘I felt very embarrassed to tell people’

Chicago Sun-Times: Advocates shine light on homeless students, turn up heat on Lightfoot

The Bring Chicago Home campaign is working to increase the city’s real estate transfer tax (RETT) to provide dedicated funding for housing with services to address homelessness. Locally generated funds could assist homeless CPS students because a local fund would not have to meet the HUD definition of homelessness.

Bring Chicago Home introduced a resolution in July, supported by 27 aldermanic co-sponsors, that would place a question on the ballot to get permission from voters to raise the city’s RETT. Advocates are pushing for a hearing before the end of September in order to meet the legally mandated deadline to put the question on the March 2020 ballot. Aldermen Michelle Harris and Scott Waguespack, chairmen of the Rules and Finance committees, promised to schedule a hearing, but so far have failed to get a date on the calendar.

Map: Number of Homeless Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Students, by Ward

Map: Homeless Students as a Percent of Total CPS Students in a Ward

For more information, contact CCH Policy Director Julie Dworkin.


Chicago schools reopen Tuesday: Free CTA rides, legal aid available for homeless families facing school issues

To encourage attendance when Chicago Public Schools reopen this Tuesday, September 3, the CTA is again offering free rides to school for all CPS students. Students and adults accompanying them can ride for free on the first day of classes.

As always, the Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will offer free legal aid and advice to city and suburban families and students experiencing homelessness if they encounter issues upon their return to school. Those recognized as homeless includes households living in shelters or doubled-up in someone else’s home.

Common issues include being allowed to remain in the original school attended before becoming homeless, being allowed to enroll in the school nearest where you now live, or being recognized as homeless and entitled to transportation assistance.

For help or information, call the Law Project, call 1 (800) 940-1119 during weekday office hours, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The staff of the Law Project ran extensive outreach this summer at a dozen back-to-school fairs in the city and suburbs.

At a recent CPS training, leader Bridgette Barber, Attorney Alyssa Phillips, and Organizer Bisma Shoukat

Equal Justice Works Attorney Alyssa Phillips also managed the Law Project’s assistance at eight CPS trainings for over 900 homeless liaisons and school clerks. Working with CCH organizers Bisma Shoukat and Claudia Cabrera, she recruited service providers to participate in the August trainings, including New Moms, The Night Ministry, and Erie Family Health Center.

Alyssa also explained the laws protecting the educational rights and options for homeless children and teens under state and federal laws. CCH parent leaders talked to school staff about their own experiences, Alyssa said, “explaining what was helpful and what was hurtful” when working with schools on behalf of their children or grandchildren.

Kudos to parent leaders Bridgette Barber, Margaret Bingham, Marilyn Escoe,  Pat Franklin, and Maxica Williams for the time they gave to these trainings.

– Anne Bowhay, Media


Bring Chicago Home: Community leaders rally outside ‘State of the City’ address, call on mayor’s broken promise on homelessness

Before Mayor Lori Lightfoot revealed her projected budget deficit in a “State of the City” address, members of the Bring Chicago Home coalition rallied Thursday outside her Harold Washington Library Center event, again calling on the mayor to keep the promise she made to the coalition during her campaign.

In recent weeks through the media and communications from her staff, Mayor Lightfoot revealed her intention to shrink the city’s budget deficit in part by raising the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) – a one-time fee applied to real estate purchases – on property sales that exceed $1 million. If she does this, Mayor Lightfoot would raid the same revenue source she had promised to use to combat homelessness and a dire shortage of affordable housing. Continue reading Bring Chicago Home: Community leaders rally outside ‘State of the City’ address, call on mayor’s broken promise on homelessness

Support Youth Futures at Skender Foundation’s Oct. 17 fall fundraiser

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is grateful to have been chosen as the beneficiary for Skender Foundation’s 8th annual Harvesting Hope fundraiser. Proceeds from the event will support CCH’s Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic.

Harvesting Hope will take place on Thursday, October 17 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Venue West in the West Loop. Styled as a cocktail reception, tickets are $75 and entitle guests to an evening of delicious food and drink, music spun by a live DJ, a silent auction, and various games and prizes. Continue reading Support Youth Futures at Skender Foundation’s Oct. 17 fall fundraiser

Bring Chicago Home: Community leaders converge on Mayor Lightfoot’s 100-Day celebration to denounce broken promise on homelessness

Mayor vowed during campaign to support funding mechanism to reduce homelessness, now wants to confiscate that revenue for city’s general coffers, reports say

As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot celebrated 100 days in office, members of the Bring Chicago Home (BCH) coalition held a press conference Wednesday outside her Kenwood Academy event, calling on the mayor to keep the promise she made to the coalition during her campaign.

Earlier this month, Mayor Lightfoot divulged her intention to try to shrink the city’s budget deficit by raising the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) – a one-time fee applied to real estate purchases – on property sales that exceed $1 million. Continue reading Bring Chicago Home: Community leaders converge on Mayor Lightfoot’s 100-Day celebration to denounce broken promise on homelessness

New reentry legislation will bar housing discrimination based on an arrest, juvenile or sealed/expunged record

By Mercedes G. González, Policy Specialist

Reentry legislation dubbed the “Housing as a Human Right Bill” was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday. 

Senate Bill 1780 makes it a civil rights violation to refuse to engage in a real estate transaction based on specific components of someone’s criminal record. As part of the Illinois Human Rights Act, it will be illegal to discriminate against a person seeking housing based on an arrest record that did not lead to a conviction, a juvenile record, or a sealed/expunged record. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

SB1780 was an initiative of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI). RROCI is comprised of directly-impacted people, policy advocates, and community organizers from CCH’s Reentry Project, Heartland Alliance, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and the Community Renewal Society. Continue reading New reentry legislation will bar housing discrimination based on an arrest, juvenile or sealed/expunged record

Asking for help is not a crime: Lawsuit challenges state and local panhandling restrictions

Saying they have been punished just for asking for help, two men sued state and local officials after being ticketed and prosecuted repeatedly for panhandling in suburban Downers Grove.

The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), ACLU of Illinois, and the law firm of Schiff Hardin allege violations of the men’s First Amendment rights in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Michael Dumiak and Christopher Simmons have been harassed, ticketed, and prosecuted by local authorities when the men stood on a raised median strip seeking donations from people in vehicles stopped at the intersection of Butterfield and Finley roads. They have not caused safety or traffic problems. Firefighters and others use that median in the same manner to raise money for charitable organizations, but they are not ticketed or prosecuted.

“All I want to do is to ask for help when I need it. I’m not blocking traffic or putting myself at risk – I’m just holding a cardboard sign. If other people and organizations can do it, I should be able to as well,” said Mr. Dumiak.

Mr. Dumiak and Mr. Simmons have been charged under an Illinois statute that makes it a misdemeanor to stand on a median to solicit contributions, employment, business, or rides from passing vehicles. The state statute does not prohibit other interactions with drivers and passengers, such as gathering petition signatures or distributing leaflets. It allows municipalities to exempt certain charities from the law, even as local police enforce it against individuals who ask for money for their own use.

A Downers Grove ordinance similarly prohibits standing on a median strip to solicit funds from vehicles, but expressly exempts some charitable solicitation.

The case comes after the ACLU and CCH sent letters to 19 municipalities in the past year to warn that their panhandling ordinances are unconstitutional.

A 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it clear that most laws targeting panhandlers are unconstitutional. Although the case (Reed v. Town of Gilbert) was not about panhandling, the Supreme Court clarified that government regulation of speech based on its subject matter or purpose is almost always unconstitutional. Since Reed was decided, panhandling ordinances across the nation have been repealed or struck down by courts.  To date, 10 Illinois municipalities, including Chicago and Oak Park, have repealed their panhandling ordinances after receiving letters from the ACLU and CCH.

“By choosing to ban only certain topics of speech, the state of Illinois and Downers Grove are unjustly targeting people who need help making ends meet. We are calling on the court to put a stop to this wrongful enforcement,”” said ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Amy Meek.

“Our clients in this case are just two of many homeless people across Illinois who have been targeted by these inhumane and unconstitutional laws. We hope to stop Downers Grove from unjustly criminalizing their speech and affirm that everyone has the right to ask for help,” said CCH Community Lawyer Diane O’Connell.

The case is co-counseled for CCH with Staff Attorney Arturo Hernandez.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District for the Northern District of Illinois. A copy of the complaint can be read here.

The Daily Herald: ACLU sues Downers Grove, says panhandling prohibition is unconstitutional

CCH welcomes youth attorney Mary Frances Charlton

Mary Frances Charlton has joined the staff of the Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic. We asked Mary Frances to introduce herself.

I am thrilled to join CCH’s Law Project as the Youth Health Attorney! In this role, I’ll be providing civil legal representation to Chicago-area youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability and advocating for policies that reduce systemic barriers to health care and public benefits for homeless youth and adults.

Mary Frances Charlton (Photo by Claire Sloss)

Prior to coming to CCH, I worked for a consumer rights law firm, Edelman Combs Latturner & Goodwin, representing consumers in fighting unlawful debt collection and banking practices in both federal and Illinois state courts.

Before that, I spent five years as an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) in Virginia, where I led the public benefits and health programs. My work at LAJC focused on the Affordable Care Act and ensuring access to public benefits and health care for immigrant families. In addition, I taught law students in the Health Law Clinic and the Employment Law Clinic with the University of Virginia School of Law and supervised those students in representing LAJC clients.

While at LAJC, I served as lead counsel in Manning v. Caldwell, a federal challenge to a Virginia statute which was used to incarcerate homeless individuals experiencing alcohol use disorder. Fortunately, this unjust law was recently held to be unconstitutional as a result of the lawsuit. Litigating that case allowed me to spend a lot of time meeting with clients experiencing homelessness, hearing their stories, and learning from them. It also allowed me to see the countless ways the legal and health care systems are failing our communities.

I believe that dismantling the systems which perpetuate racism and poverty requires a multi-faceted approach, of which litigation is only a small part. This is one of the many great things about CCH: using the power of organizing, direct representation, policy advocacy, and most importantly, lifting up the voices of people most impacted by these unjust systems to bring us closer to justice. It matters what we do and whose voices we elevate. That’s why I’m joining CCH and I’m so incredibly lucky to be doing so.

For a little personal background, I grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, went to college at a Jesuit school called Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and got my law degree at American University’s Washington College of Law. Now that I am in Chicago, when not focusing on surviving the winter, I can be found cycling on the lakefront or trying all the delicious food that I can around town with my wife, Bridget.


StreetLight Chicago: Book-a-Bed adds access to more youth shelter beds

More beds have been added to Book-a-Bed! The shelter-access feature is offered on StreetLight Chicago, a free mobile app of resources for homeless youth.

Youth can reserve one of 18 beds at four overnight youth shelters. In August, La Casa Norte began offering two beds at its Logan Square shelter and five beds at its Back of the Yards shelter.

Eight beds remain available at The Crib on Chicago’s North Side and three beds at Ujima Village on the city’s South Side.

Youth or service providers assisting them can reserve a bed between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily. This can be done using either the phone app or a desktop version of StreetLight Chicago. Youth must arrive by 11 p.m. to use a bed for the night.

“Book-a-Bed helps youth who, because of work or classes, cannot attend at-the-door lotteries when shelters open for the evening,” said Beth Malik, associate legal director at CCH and lead attorney for its Youth Futures legal aid clinic.

StreetLight Chicago is a joint project of Youth Futures and the Young Invincibles, backed by generous multi-year support from the VNA Foundation.

Launched in November 2016, more than 3,200 people have downloaded the StreetLight app to date.

StreetLight Chicago offers a database of resources for homeless and unaccompanied youth, ages 16 through 24. The app provides youth with a centralized list of youth drop-in centers, shelters, health clinics, food pantries and services, including Youth Futures’ legal aid. Occasional push notifications are issued when bad weather or program-change alerts are needed.

A desktop version – at www.streetlightchicago.org – has been available since August 2017. It mirrors the app’s resource information, with printable lists and improved navigation for users seeking directions. The website expands access to StreetLight resources for youth without cellphones and makes it easier for service providers to work with youth clients.

Service providers are invited to send any listing or push notification updates to streetlightchicago@gmail.com

– Anne Bowhay, Media