Take Action: Contact the city of Chicago Office of Budget and Management

The city of Chicago is receiving millions of dollars in new federal funds from the CARES Act that must be spent to support people experiencing homelessness through COVID-19. The city released how it plans to spend that money yesterday, and they have opened a comment period, ending this Monday, June 15, for the public to provide feedback about their proposal.

This is a crucial opportunity for the city to leverage federal dollars to provide immediate housing for people experiencing homelessness who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. While the city’s proposal does provide funding for housing in its plan, we are advocating that they dedicate more for this purpose, and we hope you will join us in this ask. Continue reading Take Action: Contact the city of Chicago Office of Budget and Management

CCH to launch a Mutual Aid Fund

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is establishing the CCH Mutual Aid Fund to provide modest emergency grants of up to $500 to Illinois residents experiencing homelessness.

Working alongside people experiencing and at-risk of homelessness for the last 40 years, we know that a small amount of money can make the difference between having access to a safe place to stay, a warm healthy meal, or life-saving medication, and not. In these unprecedented times, we hope to be able to provide much-needed emergency support to as many of our neighbors as possible.

CCH will launch the fund’s 5-day application period at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 11. We are using a simple, easy-to-access application, available online or by phone. We pledge a quick turn-around time for providing support. Access to the application will be available on the CCH website during that time, until 5 p.m. on Friday, May 15.

Thanks to generous grants from the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, the Jay Pritzker Foundation, Homestead Affordable Development Corporation, and other support received in response to this crisis, $110,000 has already been committed to this fund. We hope that you will join this effort by donating to grow this fund to $150,000, allowing us to distribute grants to at least 300 individuals and families. 

The mutual aid fund will be managed by a committee of grassroots leaders, with support from CCH community organizers. Our leaders are low-income volunteers with lived experience of homelessness who participate as partners in CCH advocacy. They are uniquely positioned to be decision-makers in distributing these funds.

– Claire Sloss, Media

How to receive your Stimulus Payment

Adapted from FAQ: CARES Act Stimulus Payments, prepared by Legal Council for Health Justice

Millions of Americans have already received their federal Economic Impact (Stimulus) Payments authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to calculate and send payments to most eligible individuals, some Americans may have to provide additional information to the IRS to receive their payment.

Who is eligible for stimulus payments?

Stimulus payments will be made as follows:

  • $1,200 for single taxpayers with incomes of $75,000 or less;
  • $2,400 plus $500 payments for each child under the age of 17 for married couples with incomes of $150,000 or less; and
  • $1,200 plus $500 payments for each qualifying child for heads of households (usually single parents with children) with incomes of $112,500 or less.

The following individuals are not eligible for a CARES Act stimulus payment:

  • People without a Social Security Number; and
  • Young adults who are age 17 and older and who are claimed as dependents on another person’s income tax return.

How can I receive my stimulus payment?

  • If you file a 2019 tax return, the IRS will use the bank direct deposit information on that form (bank routing number and account number) to make an electronic stimulus payment directly into your bank account.
  • If no 2019 income tax return has been filed, the IRS will look to see if you filed a 2018 income tax return and use the direct deposit information on the 2018 form to make the electronic payment.
  • People whose bank information has changed will need to update their bank information on the “Get My Payment” portal.
  • SSI recipients will also receive stimulus payments directly to their bank accounts, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their monthly SSI benefits. These payments will be made no sooner than early May.
    • SSI recipients with qualifying children under age 17 will need to go to IRS webpage to enter their information in order to receive the additional $500 per qualifying child payment.
  • If you do not have a bank account, you will be mailed a stimulus check.
  • You can also receive your stimulus payment through Cash App, if you have a Cash App account. Find more information here.
  • If you are not required to file taxes in 2019 and did not file in 2018, you need to complete the IRS short form application for non-filers.

You can check the status of your stimulus payment here.

BE CAREFUL OF SCAMMERS!

If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, or another government agency offering COVID-19 related grants or economic impact payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond. These are scams.

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless at 1 (800) 940-1119 or beth@chicagohomeless.org.

COVID–19 Resources for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness

Many community organizations have developed resource guides to help coordinate services for those most impacted by COVID-19. The following resources are intended to supplement and support guides compiled by South Side WeeklyAccess LivingIllinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee RightsShriver National Center on Poverty Law, and other area organizations.

A PDF version of this guide is available here.

If you need help paying rent, call the Homelessness Prevention Call Center. Dial 311 or (312) 744-5000 and ask for “short-term help.” Callers that are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired should dial (312) 948-6817. State homelessness prevention funds should be available for documented crisis. The Call Center is open Monday–Thursday, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. The Call Center will refer you to a community organization that manages the funds. If you reside in suburban Cook County, call 1(877)426-6515 for help with basic needs. 

Your local Department of Family and Support Services Community Service Center also coordinates rental assistance. They are open Monday–Thursday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. City residents who need assistance can drop in or schedule an appointment to have an initial assessment to identify their needs.  

  • Englewood Center, 1140 W. 79th Street, Chicago, IL 60620, (312) 747-0200 
  • Garfield Center, 10 S. Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612, (312) 746-5400  
  • King Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago, IL 60653, (312) 747-2300  
  • North Area, 845 W. Wilson Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640, (312) 744-2580  
  • South Chicago, 8650 S. Commercial Avenue, Chicago, IL 60617, (312) 747-0500 
  • Trina Davila, 4312 W. North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60639, (312) 744-2014

If you are living with HIV/AIDS, AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) is providing emergency assistance. If you do not have a case manager or housing advocate, navigator, or technician, call (312) 690-8860 for assistance. Utilize the Chicagoland HIV Resource Coordination Hub for additional information, referrals, and other support to people living with and vulnerable to HIV. The Hub is staffed 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Sunday. Call the Hub at (844) HUB-4040 or (800)AID-AIDS.

If you have a housing legal matter, call Legal Aid Chicago or Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH). Legal Aid Chicago can be reached by phone at (312) 341-1070 or applying online for housing legal advocacy. The intake line accepts calls weekdays beginning at 8 a.m. Legal Aid Chicago takes a limited number of calls each day, so it is best to call early. They offer a callback option to keep your place in the queue, so you do not have to wait on the phone. All calls are returned the same day. LCBH can be reached at (312) 347-7600. LCBH has closed its office to the public until further notice, but LCBH staff is working remotely, and LCBH is still taking applications by phone.

If you are experiencing homelessness and need shelter, call 3-1-1 to be referred to a shelter. Please note that there is not a clear process for shelter clients to be referred directly to a quarantine/isolation facility from the shelter–the process is typically initiated by emergency rooms.

If you are experiencing a significant change in your income, many federal offices remain open for services over phone.  

  • Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed to the public for in-person services as of March 17, 2020.  Use online services or contact local offices by phone. For pre-scheduled, in-office appointments, expect to receive a call from a representative from a private number at the time of the appointment. 
  • Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) remains open. Call IDES at (800) 244-5631 or use online services. 
  • Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is still offering applications for benefits and requests for assistance for emergency food relief (SNAP), cash assistance (TANF) and Medicaid applications online at Medicaid applications online or by calling the ABE Call Center at (800) 843-6154. 
  • Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Family Community Resource Centers (FCRCs) remain open with limited staff during this state of emergency. IDHS strongly encourages online and phone applications to limit potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • Millions of Americans have already received their Economic Impact (Stimulus) Payments authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to calculate and send payments to most eligible individuals, some Americans may have to provide additional information to the IRS to receive their payment. Learn more here.

If you have a legal matter with your income, Legal Aid Chicago can be reached by phone at (312) 341-1070 or applying online. The intake line accepts calls weekdays beginning at 8 a.m. Legal Aid Chicago takes a limited number of calls each day, so it is best to call early. They offer a callback option to keep your place in the queue, so you do not have to wait on the phone. All calls are returned the same day. People experiencing homelessness can contact the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless at (800) 940-1119 for issues with public benefits, education rights, and more. CARPLS can also be reached at (312) 738-9200.

If you need to access a food pantry or prepared meals, the Greater Chicago Food Depository 700 partner agencies and programs remain open–with some exceptions. Find a food program on the Greater Chicago Food Depository website. It is recommended to call a site to confirm program hours and requirements.

Chicago Public Schools are open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–1 p.m., to provide meals (breakfast and lunch). All CPS students are eligible. You will pick up the food outside the school building. You will receive 3 days of meals for each young person in the household. If you have trouble getting to a site, call the contact number (773) 553-KIDS or email at familyservices@cps.edu to make a request for food delivery. Call daily to request food delivery. 

If you need assistance with your child’s education, Chicago Public Schools offers online enrichment resources. Families can also access hard copy enrichment packets at schools during food distribution hours. You can call CPS at (773) 553-KIDS or email at familyservices@cps.edu for more information. For students who are homeless the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless can assist with any education issue including accessing food, remote learning, and preschool applications.  Please call (800) 940-1119 

Tell Congress to provide for the housing and health needs of people experiencing homelessness

People experiencing homelessness and facing housing instability are already suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. Many are seniors, people with disabilities and/or people with underlying health conditions, making them high-risk populations for the virus. And the federal legislation passed to date has overlooked their critical needs.

Congress must meet the housing and health needs of people experiencing homelessness and housing instability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have the chance to provide for these communities: legislators are currently debating a stimulus relief bill that could include funding for people who need housing. But we need to act now. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to pass legislation through the chamber by the end the day today, Monday, March 23.

Email your legislator TODAY to urge them to take action on behalf of Illinois’ most vulnerable communities:

COVID-19 Response Fund

Many have reached out to learn what they can do to help people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while this response is warranted and admirable, CCH ​is joining with many other organizations in closing our office and instructing our staff to stay at home to help reduce the spread of the virus. ​​We also encourage those that are able to do the same.

The region’s health and human service organizations are experiencing a surge in demand for services from neighbors and communities significantly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. In collaboration with the City of Chicago, The Chicago Community Trust and United Way of Metro Chicago launched the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund to unite the funds raised by Chicago’s philanthropies, corporations and individuals to be disbursed to nonprofit organizations across the region. You can contribute here.

We are continuing to work with our leaders to ensure people experiencing homeless are included in plans to respond to this crisis. On Sunday, CCH sent these recommendations to city, Cook County, and state officials.

Financial support at this time is truly the best option for those willing to help. Supply drives would be difficult to coordinate and inefficient by comparison. Thank you all for your concern. We are truly in this together.

April and her family have hope and a new home

Five years ago, April Harris and her family had to flee their hometown, Pittsburgh.

April’s family was targeted after she asked the housing authority to put a stop to early-morning drug dealing by her home. The family moved to a new neighborhood, doubling-up with friends, but when the threats continued, they were advised to move out of state.

April’s family landed in Chicago.

“We went to the nearest police station. They took us to 10 South Kedzie,” said April, describing how her family was quickly placed in Chicago’s emergency shelter system.

That led to on-and-off stints in shelters over the next four years.

April and her husband, Greg, have chronic health issues, including Greg’s multiple sclerosis. They rely on Social Security disability income to support themselves and their two children. The family’s first six months in the Salvation Army’s Booth Lodge family shelter was followed by two years struggling to pay rent for unsubsidized apartments.

The family moved from their first apartment because Greg, who needs a walker, had difficulty using stairs. They became homeless again in fall 2017, after their basement-level apartment was deemed unsafe by a city inspector.

“We were placed at You Can Make It, a shelter on the South Side. That’s where we met Keith,” said April, referring to Keith Freeman, senior community organizer at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). “We got involved right away with Keith, going to actions, working on the Fight for $15.”

The family moved after four months to another shelter in the Austin neighborhood. April grew more active with CCH while searching online for housing. She felt some pressure, knowing frequent moves impacted her husband’s health and upset the children.

April’s daughter had tested into a magnet school, so she stayed in the same school. But the moves forced her son to transfer schools repeatedly in his early elementary years.

“He didn’t understand why we kept having to move. He was like, ‘Mom, I just want to be able to stay at the same school,’” she recalled.

After 11 months in shelters, the family secured a one-year placement in a subsidized apartment. The Harris family was grateful to be housed, but they still faced instability when the temporary placement ended.

“It’s kind of scary, because that year goes by fast, and you think, ‘How can we afford this when the subsidy is up?’”

April would track prospects for subsidized, accessible housing, signing waitlists and calling to check for openings. Those efforts helped her secure a long-term subsidized apartment last May, in a new Humboldt Park six-flat managed by LUCHA.

With her family’s home secured, April blossomed as a community leader with CCH. She joined its Speakers Bureau, works part-time in the CCH office, and serves as a grassroots leader on its city housing campaign, Bring Chicago Home. April says she found her passion.

“I’ve done phone-banking. I went to Springfield. I talked to my alderman and my state representative and they’re both on board for Bring Chicago Home.

“It’s a lot of volunteering, but it’s worth it. I feel like I’m giving back and I’m taking some of my power back. It makes me stronger. It makes me feel like I made it.”

Now recruiting Chicago Marathon runners

CCH is proud to be an affiliate charity for the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, October 11, 2020. We are now recruiting our next Team to End Homelessness, offering a limited number of guaranteed entries to the race.

Runners who join our team before December 3, 2019 will be required to set a $1,250 minimum fundraising goal, to be raised online in conjunction with their race training. Those who join our team after December 3 will be required to set a $1,750 minimum fundraising goal.

Benefits of joining our team include:

  • Free guaranteed entry into the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
  • Moisture-wicking team shirt
  • Race day location near the start gate, with private bag check, bathrooms, and refreshments
  • Team building events, including a pre-race pasta party
  • Virtual coaching during training months
  • Discounted in-person training
  • Team email updates
  • Personal fundraising page and fundraising support from CCH staff
  • The opportunity to support CCH’s mission to prevent and end homelessness

If interested in joining our team for the 2020 race, please contact Claire Sloss at csloss@chicagohomeless.org or complete this interest form.

Alex finds her voice

Helped by a scholarship from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, this fall Alexandria Bolling starts her freshman year at Howard University, her dream school. Alex is studying to become a teacher, another dream she has held for as long as she can remember.

But her journey has not been easy.

Originally from southeast Louisiana, Alex’s parents split when she was four, leaving her mother to raise Alex, her twin sister, and two brothers on her own. Soon after, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the family’s apartment and most of their belongings. They bounced around relatives’ homes until her mother could get them back on their feet.

“My mom was always socially conscious and demanded the best of ourselves,” Alex recalled. “She taught us to have a voice of our own.” But Alex was shy, more observant: “I liked to hear what other people had to say.”

When she was 14, Alex made the difficult choice to leave home, moving north to Evanston for better educational opportunities. Money was tight – she stayed with an aunt and seven younger cousins – but the change in academic environment proved beneficial.

It was at her new school that Alex began to speak up, and her passion for social justice was ignited. Class discussions around social issues were encouraged: “I learned what it means to fight for what’s right.” She joined the Debate Team, serving as captain her senior year.

“Debate opened my world to who I could be when advocating for others,” Alex said. She competed around the country, championing mock legislation to support youth programs. She spearheaded a group for classmates of color to share their experiences. She participated in a school walkout against gun violence.

But the summer before her junior year, financial challenges caused her aunt to be evicted from their Evanston home. Alex was forced to double-up with relatives on the far South Side of Chicago. Her commute to school topped three hours round trip, involving two buses and a train. This took away valuable study time and made getting to school on time challenging. She lost friends and her grades suffered.

“Homelessness broke my confidence,” Alex said. “It took a toll on me emotionally. I struggled to keep up a level of scholarship that I felt I was capable of.”

Despite these challenges, Alex persevered. She continued to make the honor roll. She participated in Evanston Scholars, a college readiness program. She worked as a counselor for a camp serving homeless children. And after years of struggle, she is proud to be attending an historically black university, like her mother did.

“Homelessness doesn’t have to keep you from succeeding,” she said. But support is crucial.

Alex credits her mother and her Evanston Scholars mentor for their guidance, as well as a teacher that showed empathy for her situation. “When I came to class really late, instead of scolding me, she got me caught up right away,” said Alex. “She prioritized my success and education over my tardiness.”

As a future educator, Alex seeks to do the same.

“There’s more to education than the textbooks and history lessons,” she said. “It’s a community inside a classroom.”

And her wish for her future students? “I want them to find happiness and peace, no matter what they’re going through.”

– Story by Erin Sindewald

– Photos by Claire Sloss