National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week: Working with amazing grassroots leaders

During National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, CCH will offer essays by people who work with us, writing about what inspires their work.

By Niya Kelly

I am the Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. In my role at the organization I work to advance our legislative agenda on a statewide level. I have worked with the organization for four years.

Niya Kelly, CCH Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation

Our work at CCH is unique because we believe that we can and will end homelessness. We know that with the right resources, funding, and supports we could live in a world free from housing insecurity.

This work is important to me because I get to see significant changes both through the policy lens and with our grassroots leaders. Yes, we pass legislation, we change policies and embark on lofty campaigns, but our work is driven by people with lived experience.

In my time here I have seen people who were hesitant to engage become grassroots leaders who are now always ready to reach out to public officials and advocate for change. I get the privilege of working on a white paper that turns into legislation that later becomes a law while also watching the trajectory of a person. They may have been stayed quiet during a focus group but become the person who testifies in committee about the importance of a program in their life and later meet the governor.

Sometimes armed with my facts and figures, I get to step back and marvel at the fortitude of CCH leaders as they share intimate details of their lives, hoping that their story breaks through with the legislator. Electeds often take that moment, listen and feel moved to act not only for the sake of the person standing in front of them, but for others in their communities.  That is systemic change. I am extremely grateful to do this work, in this space, with amazing people who advocate in ways that I regard with the highest esteem. I know that in working beside them that we will one day reach our goal of ending homelessness.

National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week: ‘Homelessness impacted me throughout my entire life.’

During National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, CCH will offer essays by people who work with us, writing about what inspires their work.

By Juanita Rodgers, Grassroots Leader

Juanita Rodgers

My name is Juanita Rodgers and I am one of the newest grassroots leaders for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. I am originally from Jackson, Mississippi and I have lived in Illinois since I was 16. I moved to Chicago two years ago. I have three daughters who are adults now and have all completed college. I majored in journalism, criminal justice, as well as human service management, and will soon go back to college to finish at least one of my majors.

Homelessness impacted me throughout my entire life. I grew up in foster homes and shelters at a young age in Mississippi. When I moved to Illinois it was no different, because I was asked to leave with my daughter just shy of my 18th birthday. The high school that I attended saw potential in me and reached out to help. They provided a place for me to stay so that I could focus on graduation.

Before I moved to Chicago, I had told myself and others that I was moving to Chicago to “be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.” That was my motivation. That has always been my motivation over the years. Unfortunately, I did not know that I was going to have to sleep in my car to be a part of that solution. I did not know how to get access to programs that I needed to get back on my feet. I was denied everything, even a medical card.

It is extremely important that we work towards ending and preventing homelessness because nobody wants to be homeless. Some of these homeless individuals have no hope. They refuse help because of the broken system. Some people are homeless because of issues beyond their control.

Preventing homelessness also will decrease some of the crime rates. Homeless people can be easy targets. With less people on the streets there would be fewer innocent targets for random robberies, rape victims, and even murders. Everyone deserves the opportunity to have their own home. Shelter and transitional living are supposed to be temporary. The waiting list should not be that long.

What inspired me to write “Bring Chicago Home” came from a poem I wrote called “City Streets.” I had written it a while ago and lost the original copy. I have been trying for years to retrieve that poem to re-write it for my poetry book, “Diamonds on A Black Sheep.” When I was working downtown and saw people sleeping on the sidewalk, I heard the streets of Chicago again. When I was presented with an opportunity to enter a poetry contest sponsored by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the words to “Bring Chicago Home” just came out. Now I can continue writing my book that focuses on the injustice we face in the inner cities nationwide.

I will continue this fight to end homelessness for all. I will continue to the fight to Bring Chicago Home!


Bring Chicago Home

Juanita Rodgers reads her poem, Bring Chicago Home, at CCH’s Victory Celebration on Nov. 7.

A poem by Juanita Rodgers

As I walk along these city streets

I see people who just want to eat and sleep.

People who just want a chance;

To live in a home without demands.

People who have somehow become lost;

In a system of greed without any cost.

People who are human like you and me.

But have been stripped of their rights and just want to be free.

These people are humans who are just looking for help.

Yet, they get the door slammed in their faces, due to greed and wealth.

Blaming these people for the situation that they are in.

Telling these people that they do not stand a chance.

So why is it so hard to get these people off the streets?

Because it does not affect you or even me?

Until something happens to us to force us to stand out in the rain.

So, who are we to judge these people we see standing in the cold, shaking their cans?

Well, it’s time for us to make demands!

It’s time for us to take a stance!

It’s time for us to push our politicians!

It’s time for us to make them listen.

So, what, are you going to stand there and continue to walk by?

Shed a tear or maybe even cry?

It’s time out for that because they don’t stand alone.

It’s time for us to Bring Chicago Home!


Link to more information on National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week


Skender Foundation raises $43,000 for Youth Futures at Harvesting Hope 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. More than 300 people attended the October 17 event at Venue West in the West Loop, raising $43,000 for CCH’s Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic.

(From left to right) Associate Legal Director Beth Malik and CCH Executive Director Doug Schenkelberg with Skender Foundation Executive Director Belinda Moore and Builders’ Board members.

Organized by Skender Foundation’s Builders’ Board, Harvesting Hope seeks to encourage the spirit of giving among young professionals looking to create positive change in Chicago. The Builders’ Board is comprised of young professionals across various industries and career stages. Members give back to their communities through leadership development, fundraising, and volunteerism. The board presented its check to Youth Futures on Nov. 14.

The mission of Skender Foundation is to create access to resources and relationships that help people make good life decisions through greater education and wellness. Founded in 2012 as a 501(c)3 public foundation, Skender Foundation has donated more than $5.6 million to over 300 nonprofits in Chicago. Previous beneficiaries of Harvesting Hope include Purple Asparagus, Snow City Arts, and Embarc Chicago.

Associate Legal Director Beth Malik addresses the crowd.

“Youth Futures provides critical and life-changing legal services to homeless young people to put them on the path toward safety, stability, and independence,” said Associate Legal Director Beth Malik, in her remarks at Harvesting Hope.

“We would not be able to do this work without the generous support of organizations like Skender and the Builders’ Board. Over 11,000 youth experience homelessness each year in Chicago. By supporting Youth Futures tonight, you are lifting up these young people, and letting them know that they are seen, that they are supported, and that they matter.”

CCH Board and staff members at Harvesting Hope, from left, Maxica Williams, Christy Savellano, Mary Frances Charlton, Doug Schenkelberg, Erin Sindewald, Patricia Nix-Hodes, Beth Malik, Alyssa Phillips, and Charles Jenkins.

During FY19, Youth Futures outreached to more than 4,000 homeless and unaccompanied youths at schools, shelters, drop-in centers, and community events, educating them on their rights and available resources. CCH attorneys closed 501 cases on behalf of 315 youth clients, helping homeless students turned away by their public schools and representing young people struggling to access Medicaid and health care.

Generous support from partners like Skender Foundation make it possible for Youth Futures to continue to support homeless and unaccompanied youth navigate pressing legal issues, including access to education, health care, and housing.

– Erin Sindewald, Development Manager

CCH seats new Board president, officers, and three new members

The Board of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has seated three new members and named new officers to two-year terms, including Caronina Grimble as Board president.

Caronina succeeds attorney Angela E.L. Barnes as president of CCH’s now 30-member Board of Directors. Appointed to the Board three years ago, Caronina is a Program Officer at the Woods Fund Chicago. She has co-chaired the Board Fundraising Committee and served as Board secretary.

Angela was honored at the CCH Board meeting Nov. 13 as she passed the gavel to Caronina.

Praised for her “incredible support” of CCH, Angela said, “This has honestly been one of the best experiences of my life… I feel the respect of this Board and to see the dedication you have for the mission is inspiring.”

Angela has served five years on the CCH Board. She was among 15 members who were appointed at Wednesday’s meeting to new two-year terms. Angela is the General Counsel and Director of Legal Affairs and Growth Initiatives for City Tech Collaborative of Chicago.

New Board members Carlos DeJesus, Caroline McCoy, Board President Caronina Grimble, and Meena Beyers (Photo by Michael Nameche)

Other new officers include Dr. Traci P. Beck. She succeeds writer Robert Riesman as Board vice president. Traci is the director and physician for Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at Stroger Cook County Health and Hospitals Systems and a staff physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

Jessica L. Staiger, Associate General Counsel at Archer Daniels Midland Company, will serve as Board secretary. Patrick J. Hickey, Director of Private Client Services at Associated Bank, will continue as Board treasurer and co-chair of the Finance Committee.

Also, as recommended by the Board Development Committee, three new Board members were seated:

  • Meena Beyers, Director of Market Strategy for Southern Company Gas of Naperville
  • Carlos R. DeJesus, Director of Housing for Special Initiatives at The Center for Housing and Health in Chicago
  • Caroline McCoy, a Program Officer at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation

The Board also named committee co-chairs for the coming year. They include co-chairs for its new Racial Equity Committee: Dr. Mikal N. Rasheed, retired chairman and professor of the Social Work Department at Chicago State University, and Jennifer Atkins, Vice-President of Network Solutions at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

The Finance Committee is co-chaired by Patrick Hickey and Michael P. Bagley, Executive Vice President at American Community Bank & Trust in Crystal Lake. The Fundraising Committee will be co-chaired by Renauda Riddle, a Senior Revenue Auditor for the state of Illinois, and Christopher Sanders, Associate General Counsel for Harley-Davidson Financial Services.

The Board Development Committee is co-chaired by Brett Rausch, Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking for Wells Fargo, and Charles Jenkins, a longtime CCH leader who works in program development for Men Making a Difference.

One member also retired from the Board. Michael Bush, Property Manager at the Ewing Annex men’s hotel, concluded his tenure after serving four years.

A list of the CCH Board of Directors is available here.

– Anne Bowhay, Media


November media reports: Cold weather impacts Chicago’s homeless

November 12, 2019

Reuters: Chicago’s cold blast spells concern for the city’s homeless

By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Homeless advocates in Chicago were closely monitoring wind chill temperatures on Tuesday as an early season blast of arctic air swept across the eastern two-thirds of the United States.

The city of Chicago, where 86,000 homeless people live, opened its six warming shelters over the last few days as unseasonably cold temperatures dipped into the teens with wind chills into the single digits during the morning, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

“It’s incredibly concerning that we are experiencing this level of cold this early in the season,” said Doug Schenkelberg, director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless…

… About 16,000 people sleep each night on the Chicago streets and shelters, Schenkelberg said. He added that the key to dealing with homelessness in extreme weather conditions ultimately is finding permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

“It’s never an easy time to be homeless regardless of the weather and when you add extreme weather like this into the mix, it makes life that much more difficult for people experiencing it,” he said.

Link to the full report


November 9, 2019

USA Today: Chicago weather – arctic blast to affect more than 80,000 experiencing homelessness

While double-digit temperatures may be balmy by Chicago standards, cold fronts this early in the season could be particularly challenging for the more than 80,000 Chicagoans experiencing homelessness.

By Grace Hauck

A record-breaking cold front is expected to sweep across the U.S. from Sunday into Tuesday, with freezing temperatures stretching as far south as parts of the Gulf Coast.

The National Weather Service is forecasting more than 170 potential record-setting cold high temperatures Monday to Wednesday…

… While double-digit temperatures may be balmy by Chicago standards, cold fronts this early in the season could be particularly challenging for the more than 80,000 Chicagoans experiencing homelessness.

“This type of weather starting this early in the season makes their lives that much more difficult,” said Doug Schenkelberg, director of the advocacy group Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Link to the full report


Crain’s Chicago Business, Op-Ed: A way to reduce homelessness – and the deficit – here

There is a way to amend the mayor’s proposed real estate transfer tax increase to produce a win-win outcome for both deficit reduction and homelessness relief.

State Sen. Ram Villivalam
State Sen. Robert Peters
State Rep. Will Guzzardi
State Rep. Delia Ramirez

There are a whopping 86,324 people experiencing homelessness in Chicago, according to estimates calculated by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. And sometimes it has seemed as if an equal number of reasons have been offered for why we can’t allocate more resources to address this human catastrophe.

As a result, Chicago’s spending to alleviate homelessness has lagged woefully behind other major U.S. cities with large homeless populations over the decades. We spend only five percent of what New York City spends per homeless person, and a mere three percent of what Los Angeles spends per person.

This troubling pattern has culminated in the dilemma we face today, where the scale of the city’s homeless problem remains unchecked, embodying the front lines of an escalating affordable housing crisis.

But we also have a historic opportunity to change this pattern for good.

As state legislators representing Chicago, we were heartened when, during their recent campaign, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and several other candidates for mayor championed a plan to reverse the cycle of under-funding homelessness relief.  As it has been well-documented, the mayor originally proposed raising the city’s one-time Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) to bolster funding for programs that reduce homelessness by expanding affordable housing.

Of course, it’s also well-documented that Chicago is reeling from a budget deficit that continues to mushroom. Facing the mounting onus of all that red ink, the mayor changed course and proposed diverting revenues from the RETT increase into the city’s general coffers.

With that concept now pending in Springfield, we believe there is a way to amend Mayor Lightfoot’s proposed RETT increase to produce a win-win outcome for both deficit reduction and homelessness relief. Under a proposal we submitted to the Mayor’s office last week, both of these crucial imperatives could be served within the scope of the mayor’s graduated RETT structure.

How would it work? We proposed altering the structure of the mayor’s proposed RETT increase by 1) changing the rate for property sales worth more than $10 million from the 2.55 percent that Lightfoot proposed to four percent, with the rate applying only to the portion of the sale over $10 million, not the entire sale; and 2) applying the rate that Lightfoot has proposed for properties sold for between $1 million and $3 million to those also sold for more than $750,000.

All property transactions less than $815,000 would end up paying less than the current real estate transfer rate. On average, only six percent of all sales would see an increase under this proposal.

While the numbers sound complicated, the result, we believe, has the potential to be music to the public’s ear: It would allow Mayor Lightfoot to generate all the revenue she had originally proposed in order to close the city’s budget deficit, while also making a major dent in the city’s homelessness epidemic by creating permanent, affordable housing with necessary social services—mental-health care, substance-use treatment, job training, and other supports—that are proven to end homelessness.

While 13 legislators sent a letter to the mayor voicing the intent to oppose the RETT increase, if it doesn’t include dedicated funding for homelessness, it would be grossly inaccurate to equate that stance with “gun-to-the-head politics,” as a Crain’s editorial suggested. Crain’s echoed the Mayor’s claim that a property tax hike is inevitable unless the General Assembly passes her proposed RETT increase in its current form.

But our proposal demonstrates that there are many other revenue-raising vehicles that are consistent with the mayor’s desire to insulate working families from more financial pain. In fact, we’re making a concerted effort to address the important priorities we share with the mayor—deficit reduction and homelessness relief—while helping her dodge the political bullet of a property tax increase.

We commend Mayor Lightfoot for identifying the need during her campaign to revolutionize the way Chicago funds combatting homelessness. She recognized that we need to change our history on this issue, rather than let it repeat itself. In keeping with that spirit, we can’t afford to let this opportunity slip away and, once again, relegate the people experiencing homelessness in Chicago to the back of the line in the quest for funding.

We think our proposal is a blueprint for rectifying this intractable problem without jeopardizing other crucial goals. And we earnestly hope the Mayor is amenable to exploring this compromise.

We stand ready to work with her arm in arm. There are 86,324 vital, precious reasons to do so.

The authors are Illinois Senators Ram Villivalam (D-18) and Robert Peters (D-13) and Illinois Representatives Will Guzzardi (D-39) and Delia Ramirez (D-14).

News release: State legislators offer ‘win-win’ compromise to Lightfoot that would fund homelessness without sacrificing revenues for deficit reduction


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has yet to respond to a proposal that would produce a “win-win” outcome for both her and a faction of lawmakers currently opposed to her bid to obtain state authorization to increase the city’s tax on property sales.

The attempted compromise would modify Lightfoot’s proposal to raise the rate of Chicago’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) on sales of elite properties, yielding sufficient revenue to boost city funding to provide affordable housing for Chicagoans experiencing homlessness– a plan the Mayor promised to support during her campaign for office – without diminishing revenues she said she needs to trim the budget deficit.

Under the concept presented to the Mayor last week, the city would adjust the graduated structure of Lightfoot’s RETT increase by 1.) changing the rate for property sales worth more than $10 million from the 2.55 percent that Lightfoot proposed to 4 percent, with the rate applying only to the portion of the sale over $10 million, not the entire sale; and 2.) apply the rate that Lightfoot has proposed for properties sold for between $1 million and $3 million to those also sold for more than  $750,000. The counter proposal also ensures that any property sold for less than $800,000 would receive a tax cut. This equates to roughly 70% of property transactions in the city.

Capitol Fax: Tax proposal floated

Crain’s Chicago Business, Greg Hinz: Lightfoot’s tax plan is in trouble in Springfield

State lawmakers who devised the compromise sought to work together with the Mayor’s administration to advance the idea, but their overture has elicited no response.

“I can’t emphasize enough that we see this proposal as a “win-win” opportunity for everyone,” said Representative Theresa Mah. “It leaves the money that Mayor Lightfoot had budgeted to curb the deficit unscathed, but it also honors her campaign commitment to support a dedicated revenue stream to combat homelessness by investing in permanent, supportive housing. This is what our city desperately needs after generations of chronic under-funding at the city level.”

During her campaign for office, Lightfoot repeatedly promised to seek a RETT increase exclusively to address glaring housing needs in the city.  Advocates with the Bring Chicago Home (BCH) coalition have pressed the Mayor to uphold her promise and last week, 13 state lawmakers – including 10 representing districts that include areas of the city – cautioned Lightfoot that they could not support her quest for legislative approval of a RETT increase unless the Mayor made good on that pledge.

Lawmakers pointed out that their proposed amendment to the RETT increase would meet the Mayor’s goals for shrinking the budget deficit – ostensibly sparing her any need to consider a property tax increase – while concentrating the impacts on a small fraction of the city properties sold at high to ultra-high prices.

“A budget is a moral document and here is a way for us to fund homelessness and address our budget needs without having to go the route of a property tax increase,” said Senator Robert Peters. “We hope to be able to work together on this common-sense solution.”

Crain’s Chicago Business, Op-Ed: A way to reduce homelessness – and the deficit – here

Meanwhile, the fate of more than 86,000 homeless residents in Chicago remains in the balance, as Lightfoot prepares to renew efforts next week to shepherd a RETT increase through Springfield.

Without supplementary funding from the RETT increase, aid to Chicagoans experiencing homelessness will increase by a paltry $5 million in Lightfoot’s proposed 2020 budget, ensuring that her spending to combat the problem remains mired near the bottom among U.S. cities with the largest homeless populations.

In a study it conducted earlier this year based on an analysis of U.S. Census data, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless found that:

·       21 percent of all homeless Chicago adults are employed, but still can’t afford a permanent roof over their heads.

·       28 percent of all homeless Chicago adults had some college education or had obtained a degree.

·       24 percent of all homeless Chicagoans are children.

The report tallied a total of 86,324 Chicago residents experiencing homelessness.

Contact: Mike Truppa –

Capitol Fax, Rich Miller: Tax proposal floated

     A half-dozen Democratic Senators sat down with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s staff last Tuesday to propose a compromise on the mayor’s graduated real estate transfer tax idea.
     The compromise was floated after 13 House Democrats representing the city publicly declared they wouldn’t support the mayor’s RETT proposal unless more money was spent on homeless prevention programs.
     The idea presented to the mayor would still allow her to raise $100 million a year for the city’s budget but would add about $86 million for homeless programs.  The initiative comes from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, which also encouraged those 13 House Dems to speak out last week.  They would leave in place the mayor’s RETT rate cut for properties valued at $500K and below, but the next tier would include sales of $500K-$750K instead of $500K-$1 million.  And the mayor’s proposed marginal rate of 2.55 percent on sales over $10 million would be boosted to 4 percent under the new plan.
     Five of the Senators who met with the mayor’s people, Ram Villivalam, Robert Peters, Iris Martinez, Patricia Van Pelt, and Jacqueline Collins, are from the city.  But one, Ann Gillespie, is from the suburbs.  Chicago will most definitely need suburban votes to get this thing done.
     So far, the Senators haven’t heard back from the city. A mayoral spokesperson said they’re still “having conversations” about the legislation, which they hope will be voted on next week.  An official with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said in part, “we cannot see a reason why she would not agree” to their proposal because it does everything the mayor says she wants to do.  I’ll post both statements in their entirety at the blog.

CCH recognizes community partners at 2019 Victory Celebration

Working alongside coalition partners, legislators, and community allies, this year CCH secured many victories to increase resources and remove barriers for people experiencing homelessness in Illinois.

From strengthening the Homelessness Prevention grant program to upholding the rights of people living on the street, 2019 has been a year with progress to celebrate.

On Thursday, November 7, CCH honored community and political leaders who made this year’s successes possible. Continue reading CCH recognizes community partners at 2019 Victory Celebration

Key bloc of state legislators announce intention to vote against Lightfoot’s tax increase without revenues pledged to combatting homelessness

Lawmakers notify Mayor by letter that they’re seeking compromise that would salvage her campaign promise; characterize it as a ‘win-win’ opportunity for the city

With Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot already facing formidable odds in her quest to convince the Illinois Legislature to approve an increase in the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), 13 state lawmakers said Tuesday that they’re not prepared to vote for the measure unless it includes funds dedicated to alleviating homelessness.

In a letter that was submitted to Lightfoot, 13 members of the Illinois House of Representatives wrote, “It is our intention to support your proposed Real Estate Transfer Tax increase only if a significant amount is statutorily dedicated to homelessness, and we believe that at least 60% should go toward that purpose.” Continue reading Key bloc of state legislators announce intention to vote against Lightfoot’s tax increase without revenues pledged to combatting homelessness