Kudos to ReaderLink and its employees for generous support

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is thrilled to be the recipient of a generous donation of $11,148 from ReaderLink, a wholesale book distributor headquartered in Oak Brook.

“This contribution from ReaderLink was a most welcome surprise,” said Michael Nameche, director of development. “We are inspired by the collective generosity of ReaderLink’s employees and support of our mission to prevent and end homelessness. On behalf of all the men, women, and children we serve, thank you for your support of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.”

The donation was made through ReaderLink Cares, a community engagement initiative launched in December. The initiative allows ReaderLink employees to determine where corporate philanthropic dollars are donated by voting for the organizations that are most important to them.

In addition, staffers have the opportunity to give back further through an employee giving campaign for chosen charities. As part of the 2018 year-end campaign, CCH received a $10,000 corporate gift, plus an additional $1,148 gift donated directly by employees.

“ReaderLink is deeply committed to the alleviation of extreme poverty,” said ReaderLink President and CEO, Dennis Abboud. “We are proud to partner with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to improve awareness and access for affected persons within our community.”

Through a combination of corporate and employee giving, ReaderLink recently donated over $140,000 to 18 nonprofit organizations across six regions where it has offices and distribution centers. CCH was one of three Chicago area non-profits to receive support through this campaign. ReaderLink employs about 300 full-time employees at its Oak Brook and Romeoville locations.

To preserve our independent voice, CCH does not accept government funding. Our work to prevent and end homelessness is only possible thanks to generous support from individuals, foundations, and businesses. We are grateful to partner with those who share our commitment to housing as human right in a just society.

– Erin Sindewald, Media

College scholarship applications due April 1

Applications are due in April for $2,500 renewable college scholarships awarded by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to students who have succeeded in school despite coping personally with homelessness.

Graduating seniors from Chicago and suburban schools are eligible to apply, as well as CCH youth leaders and former legal clients who are younger than age 24 as of April 1. Most scholarship winners receive $10,000 to complete their bachelor’s degree. Up to five new winners will be selected this spring.

The deadline to submit an online or paper application, with brief personal essays, is Monday, April 1, 2019 at 5 p.m.

Applicants will have an extra week to submit supplemental materials. These are due by Monday, April 8 at 5 p.m. These required materials include two references that will be reviewed by our selection committee.

Access the application here. 

Continue reading College scholarship applications due April 1

Chicago Tribune: City-funded Chicago homeless shelters violate rights of people with disabilities, lawsuit claims

By Anna Kim

Chicago’s homeless shelter system discriminates against people with disabilities and fails to provide accommodations mandated by federal law, a Chicago woman claims in a federal lawsuit.

The suit, filed in federal court late Monday on behalf of the Chicago woman, accuses the city of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by not ensuring that the city’s homeless shelters and their services are accessible to people with disabilities.

Laura Martin, the plaintiff, was turned away from more than one shelter because she has difficulty walking, according to the lawsuit. After she requested help from the city’s shelter system, it took three nights to find her a place she could stay, according to the suit.

Martin, who has rheumatoid arthritis, cannot climb stairs or walk for more than one block at a time because of her disability, according to the lawsuit.

“Some of the most vulnerable people in our city are completely being denied access,” said Diane O’Connell, a Chicago Coalition for the Homeless attorney. “I mean, (the plaintiff) had to sleep in a hospital emergency room for multiple nights because there was no help for her.”

Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP, a large law firm with offices in several states, partnered with Martin in the lawsuit.

For the rest of the story, use this link.

Associated Press (San Francisco Chronicle) – Lawsuit: Chicago homeless shelters lack accessibility

CCH monitors Monday’s Tent City cleanup

Updated: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless had four staff members on site Monday to monitor the clean-up of a homeless encampment known as Tent City, located along the Dan Ryan Expressway near the 700 block of West Taylor.

Notices posted last week announced plans to clean the South Loop site Monday morning. City crews arrived about 10 a.m. and left about 1 p.m.  Also on site were representatives from three city agencies – Chicago Police, Streets and Sanitation, and the Department of Family and Support Services – as well as Illinois State Police.

No representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation were present, despite posted signage that IDOT would be part of the cleaning.

Residents were not required to remove their belongings Monday. CCH will continue to monitor the situation at the encampment, with indications that the city plans ongoing activity at the site.

On Feb. 18, a Tent City man was shot and killed at the encampment. Another male resident, also 57, was charged. Cleaning notices were posted last week.

CCH attorneys and organizers were at the encampment to monitor that residents’ rights were not violated under the guise of cleaning. Residents and advocates were concerned there might be a group eviction after the cleaning, as city officials have done at other Chicago encampments, including Lower Wacker last June and at viaducts around the city.

Twenty to 30 people appear to live at the Tent City encampment. Several other organizations showed up to assist residents, including Featherfist, Haymarket Center, Pilsen Alliance, and Thresholds.

“The city or state should not punish people for being homeless,” said CCH Community Lawyer Diane O’Connell. “Displacing residents of the Tent City would only cause more harm to some of the most vulnerable in our city.”

Chicago Tribune, Feb. 26: Residents of ‘Tent City’ fear eviction after city, state crews arrive to clean the area

Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 25: Homeless allowed to stay at South Loop ‘Tent City’ – for now

Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 20: Could ‘Tent City’ be shut down? Advocates fear for homeless as city plans cleanup

CCH statement on Gov. Pritzker’s first state budget address

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) applauds Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s recognition that addressing homelessness and the issues related to homelessness are core to the work of Illinois. Now we need to work with his administration to put the dollars behind this priority.

The governor’s budget proposes $5.15 million in funding for homeless prevention grants, a $250,000 or 5% increase. This modest increase does not bring funding for this critical program – which keeps people from ever entering into homelessness – back up to the $11 million level that it was once at. Still, it is a clear recognition that this is both a smart preventive program and solid investment for our state. CCH and our partners will continue to advocate with the governor and the legislature to increase funding back to $11 million.

Gov. Pritzker also spoke to the need for a new capital budget to address Illinois’ infrastructure needs. Permanent supportive housing is a critical piece of Illinois’ infrastructure. Any capital plan should include a $1 billion investment in supportive housing.

In addition, CCH has been in the fight to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 for many years. Many people experiencing homelessness are working in low-wage jobs and cannot afford a home. Living-wage work is a critical tool for both preventing and ending homelessness. We thank Gov. Pritzker and the legislators who voted to raise the minimum wage for backing real policy change that will improve the lives of thousands of Illinoisans.

Finally, we appreciate the governor’s focus on long-term solutions to the state’s structural deficit. CCH agrees that Illinois should establish a graduated income tax to increase state revenue and allow the state to begin to rebuild the human services infrastructure so everyone in Illinois has true access to opportunity.

– Niya K. Kelly, State Legislative Director

CCH attorneys co-edit new ABA book, ‘Educating Students Experiencing Homelessness’

Beth Malik and Patricia Nix-Hodes (Photo by Claire Sloss)

The Law Project’s Patricia Nix-Hodes and Beth Malik are co-editors of Educating Students Experiencing Homelessness, an American Bar Association book for educators, advocates and policymakers.

The revised fifth edition addresses federal educational mandates related to homeless students under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“We are excited about the release of this book. It is an important tool to raise awareness and share information about the critical legal rights of students who are homeless. Education is a solution to homelessness and this book will help ensure that more homeless students succeed in school,” said Ms. Nix-Hodes, director of the Law Project.

The ABA manual offers innovative strategies and resources for educators and school administrators, state coordinators and policymakers, advocates and attorneys to ensure the educational rights of children and youth who experience homelessness.

The 136-page book includes chapters covering young children, youth, students living in foster care, disabled students, youth pursuing higher education, and the impact of prior litigation.

Three-fourths of legal aid clients served by the CCH Law Project are homeless students and youth, according to Ms. Malik, associate legal director and CCH’s lead youth attorney. The Law Project serves more than 500 homeless Chicago area clients each year.

Laurene Heybach, the founding former director of the Law Project, co-authored the first four editions of this respected ABA guidebook.

A portion of proceeds from the sale of the book provide supports the youth leadership and scholarship program at SchoolHouse Connection, a national organization whose director is among the book’s seven co-editors.

The $14.95 book can be ordered from the ABA.

– Anne Bowhay, Media

Effect of the recent government shutdown on Illinois SNAP recipients

By Tanya Gassenheimer, Youth Health Attorney

Updated Feb. 14

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has announced it will issue all SNAP assistance for March on March 1, 2019, no matter when in the month households usually receive their food benefits.

The recent federal government shutdown caused Illinois to issue its February SNAP assistance by January 20, 2019. With the government’s reopening last month, funding for March was secured.

Issuance of April and May assistance will depend on the federal government’s actions in coming days, but as of now, IDHS plans to issue April assistance between April 1 and April 10. It also plans to issue May assistance on households’ regular schedules. CCH will continue to monitor the situation and post updates.

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides low-income households with a monthly amount of money that can be used only for groceries. The money is provided through an EBT or LINK card. For low-income individuals and families, SNAP can be the difference between housing maintenance and homelessness. For those already experiencing homelessness, receiving SNAP assistance in a timely fashion is a matter of basic survival.

Despite assurance of funding for March, the federal government shutdown’s impact on SNAP households remains significant. Due to the early issuance of February assistance, Illinois SNAP households experienced a gap of at least 39 days between receiving assistance in late January (for February) and receiving assistance on March 1 (for March). The law requires that no SNAP household experience a gap in issuance of more than 40 days. For more details, refer to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ latest update.

Continue reading Effect of the recent government shutdown on Illinois SNAP recipients

Kudos Corner – with thanks to our business donors

Celebrating with Call One staff

By Michael Nameche, Director of Development

We have so many generous business donors to thank this winter!

First, CCH would like to humbly thank the staff of Call One, Inc. for choosing to support our work for a second year.

Call One staffers raised an impressive $25,360 during 2018 through a variety of fundraisers, including its annual Caddyshack golf outing.

Another partnership that dates back over a decade is Zumiez. The apparel company donates several pallets of new winter coats and outwear to CCH each year. We have come to rely on their generosity to help hundreds of people each winter with whom we outreach in Chicago area shelters.

The same can be said of Blistex, Inc., which each year gives a combination of money and products for distribution, including lip balm and foot cream.

The retail store, That’s Our Bag, is another annual donor that we are always happy to hear from as they give us new travel bags every year.

We were proud to take on new partnerships this winter season as well. The good people from Chance the Rapper’s charity, SocialWorks, invited CCH to bring homeless families to two of their signature Warmest Winter events – A Night at The Museum and the Taste for the Homeless.

Another great partnership in the works – the newly emerging non-profit GiveNkind, which matches up donations of valuable products and goods to non-profits that needs them. Through their efforts, CCH was able to give out over 100 portable cell phone battery chargers.

Boxes of beautiful hat, glove and scarf sets were donated by staff of the National Black MBA Association‘s Chicago chapter office.

Furious Spoon gave furiously when its celebrated ramen restaurants generously raised $6,000 to support CCH’s work this season.

Also on the culinary front, Captain Porky’s seafood and barbecue eatery in suburban Wadsworth donated a share of their sales during the Polar Vortex. The results were almost $1,000!

Local brewery Goose Island is looking to settle a debate on whether Chicagoans are more Pro-Dibs or Anti-Dibs by releasing a special beer in two distinct cans.  A portion of the profits will benefit our work, with a Feb. 2 event raising $1,085 for CCH.

And coming up: On Saturday, February 23, Empty Bottle at 1035 N. Western Ave., will collect donations on behalf of CCH at its annual Music Frozen Dancing Winter Block Party.

Chicago Tribune, Letter to the Editor: Homelessness in Chicago needs a long-term fix

Chicago stepped up when the polar vortex hit. The city’s various departments, as well as Chicago’s businesses and concerned citizens, responded to the emergency with money, time and urgency. People experiencing homelessness could be safe in warming centers, buses, shelters and motel rooms generously rented for them by others (“‘Regular people’ move dozens from camp to inn,” Feb. 1).

The weather is returning to normal winter conditions. The added shelter beds and the warming buses and centers have gone away, and the funding for motel rooms is running out. The people who found temporary refuge will be back on the streets. Their homelessness does not end just because the weather emergency does.

Now is the time to focus on long-term, permanent solutions to homelessness. The Bring Chicago Home resolution sits in the City Council Finance Committee, waiting to be heard. This resolution would move forward a proposal to raise the city’s real estate transfer tax on properties worth more than $1 million and would generate millions in new revenue, all dedicated to permanent housing and services for those experiencing homelessness.

With thousands of people in our city experiencing homelessness, the Bring Chicago Home campaign can have meaningful impact on this enormous problem.

Whether it is 25 below zero or a beautiful spring day, no one should be homeless. Let’s move the incredible energy and compassion we saw this past week to bigger solutions.

— Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Link to the Chicago Tribune Letters to the Editor

Newsweek – Polar vortex: Chicago’s homeless struggle in the bitter cold

By Katherine Hignett

Temperatures in Chicago are set to plummet as low as minus 12 degrees on Wednesday as the polar vortex tightens its grip on the Windy City. Homeless charities and city officials are racing to shelter as much of Chicago’s homeless population as possible before the extreme cold sets in.

“The homeless face serious challenges all year long when outside,” Paul Hamann, president of local organization the Night Ministry, told Newsweek. “During cold weather snaps, such as we are having now, our biggest concerns are hypothermia, frostbite and respiratory illnesses.”

Access Newsweek here

Experiencing sub-20 Fahrenheit temperatures for just a few minutes can harm your health, Hamann explained. The extreme cold, he added, is especially dangerous for people whose health is already compromised.

Advocacy group Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) estimates some 16,000 people live on the city’s streets and in its homeless shelters. That number jumps to nearly 80,000 when people who are couch surfing or seeking shelter with friends or family are taken into account.

Official figures counted just 5,657 sheltered or unsheltered homeless people in the city in one day in 2017, but the CCH’s executive director, Doug Schenkelberg, said the numbers do not capture the full picture.

The city has turned public buildings and even buses into warming centers to help people stay safe during the day. But many people facing homelessness have nowhere to go when they close, Hamann explained. “There are never enough shelter beds,” he said.

Some warming centers do stay open all night, however, and those seeking shelter—and people who spot others in need—can call 3-1-1 to find the nearest one. CCH is also collecting transit passes for those whose local shelter is full. “Whether it’s a shelter, a 24-hour warming center or a family or friend’s couch, find a place to be safe,” he said.

Some people prefer to stay on the streets at night because they’ve had bad experiences at shelters or because single-sex facilities can’t accommodate their partner, for example. “These are hard situations to face,” Hamann noted.

Hamann said locals could support those in need by contacting groups like the Night Ministry and finding out which items are needed, such as blankets, sleeping bags or socks. Financial donations, he added, were always appreciated.

Although Schenkelberg praised the city’s response to the current cold weather, he urged officials to improve support for homeless people year-round.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office estimates at least 18 people have died from exposure to the cold so far this winter, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Since 2006, some 250 people are thought to have died at least in part because of the cold. It is not known how many of these people were experiencing homelessness.

The CCH, Schenkelberg told Newsweek, wants elected officials to implement a funding initiative called “Bring Chicago Home” that would dedicate $150 million to tackling homelessness in the city.

“Homelessness exists 365 days a year,” he added. “It’s important to rise to the occasion in these emergencies, but it’s equally important to work towards ending homelessness when the emergency passes.”