Bring Chicago Home: Advocates charge Mayor Lightfoot with breaking promise for major increase in aid to homeless; say she’s resurrecting ‘business as usual’ in city government

Lightfoot’s decision to eliminate funding for homelessness from proposed tax increase on affluent property sales breaches multiple campaign promises

By excluding funding to alleviate homelessness from a plan to raise taxes on property sales in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has broken several of the campaign promises that vaulted her into office and raised questions about whether her administration represents the departure from business as usual that she heralded in her bid to run the city, members of the Bring Chicago Home campaign said Tuesday.

Reacting to published reports that Lightfoot intends to seek approval from the Illinois legislature to increase Chicago’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) on property sales exceeding $1 million and funnel all of the money into the city’s coffers to address a budget shortfall, officials with BCH, a campaign endorsed by more than 70 organizations across the city, said Lightfoot abandoned her promise to use the same revenue source to fund relief for Chicago’s large homeless population.

Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown: Homeless advocates ‘deeply disappointed’ by Lightfoot betrayal, shift to ‘business-as-usual’ politics

Meanwhile, by eliminating support for homelessness from her plan without first seeking input from advocates on how she might be able to balance it with the need to shave the city’s budget deficit, Lightfoot strayed from her vow during the campaign to act more collaboratively than her predecessor. Beginning with promises made on the campaign trail, Lightfoot has repeatedly committed to pledge money generated from a RETT increase to fund programs that reduce homelessness.

“The Mayor has not only blatantly abandoned her campaign promise, but also the style of governing that she claimed she would usher into office,” said Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), a member of BCH. “Last month she claimed she would work with us to achieve our common goal, but she made no effort to collaborate with us before deciding within weeks to withdraw her support and cut those experiencing homelessness from her plans.  We need this Mayor to restore her commitment to creating a robust and dedicated funding stream to combat homelessness. Otherwise, she’s deserting an already marginalized population who exemplify the kind of Chicagoans she vowed to champion. And that’s just a prescription for business-as-usual in Chicago.”

While Lightfoot had said that Chicago’s burgeoning budget deficit is larger than her predecessor Rahm Emanuel had disclosed, Schenkelberg noted the city has been plagued by a structural imbalance between revenues and debt that predated the Mayoral campaign and shouldn’t absolve Lightfoot from promises she made in the context of the fiscal dilemma.

Backed by 31 aldermen who have publicly expressed support for its proposal during the current Mayoral administration, the BCH campaign has championed a pending resolution in City Council that would increase the RETT on property sales exceeding $1 million to fund reductions in homelessness and an expansion in the city’s woeful scarcity of affordable housing. That measure closely paralleled the plan that Lightfoot had advocated during her campaign.

Under the legislation, more than 94 percent of all property sales in Chicago would be exempt from a proposed increase in the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), closely echoing a concept that Lightfoot, herself, repeatedly prescribed during her campaign for Mayor.

In a June letter addressed to Lightfoot, aldermen who characterized themselves as “strong supporters of a solution to dramatically reduce homelessness in Chicago” asked the Mayor to back the proposal, which would fund services and housing opportunities benefiting the more than 86,000 city residents experiencing homelessness.

“We understand that you are balancing many priorities, but your shared interest in reducing homelessness gives us hope that a plan that would finally achieve this long-sought goal is within reach,” the aldermanic letter stated.

If adopted into law, the measure will remedy a gross shortage of funds that Chicago assigns to combatting homelessness. Its current $15.5 million annual expenditure relief ranks near the bottom of the 10 U.S. cities with the largest homeless populations.

Woodstock first to act, among 8 Illinois municipalities advised to change unconstitutional panhandling ordinances

Update:

Responding to our warning letter, the City Council in north suburban Woodstock voted August 6 to repeal its unconstitutional panhandling ordinance. Woodstock acted on the advice of city attorneys, who relayed the news to the CCH and the ACLU.

Woodstock is among eight municipalities recently warned that their panhandling statutes are unconstitutional. A second municipality has notified advocates that it also intends to repeal its ordinance.

July 18  – Seeking assurance that asking for help is not treated as a crime, advocates for homeless people warned – or reminded – eight municipalities from across Illinois that local panhandling ordinances in those communities are unconstitutional and must be repealed. The warning came in the form of a letter from three prominent advocacy organizations today, building on a campaign launched last year.

In August 2018, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), ACLU of Illinois, and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty sent a series of letters to 15 communities raising concerns about their panhandling ordinances. At least nine communities – including the city of Chicago – acted to change their ordinances to comply with the U.S. Constitution.

But officials in several communities failed to act, including Carbondale, Cicero, Danville, Joliet, and Rockford. In addition, the advocacy groups sent new letters to Glen Carbon and O’Fallon, where the local ordinance does not meet constitutional standards. Finally, a separate letter was sent to Woodstock, which changed its ordinance following publicity around the August 2018 letters, but made the change in a fashion that remains constitutionally inadequate.

Continue reading Woodstock first to act, among 8 Illinois municipalities advised to change unconstitutional panhandling ordinances

Bring Chicago Home: Majority of Chicago aldermen sign onto proposal to combat homelessness

Proposal Would Fulfill Mayor’s Campaign Promise by Increasing One-Time Tax on Sales of Properties Worth More Than $1 Million to Curb Homelessness, Expand Affordable Housing

Alderman Michael Rodriguez, (22nd Ward), speaking at a July 23 press conference at City Hall

Comprising a majority of the Chicago City Council, 27 aldermen* Wednesday joined in support of a proposal championed by the Bring Chicago Home (BCH) campaign that would reduce homelessness in Chicago with funds generated from a one-time tax increase on the small fraction of city property sales sold for more than $1 million.

Under the legislation, more than 94% of all property sales in Chicago would be exempt from a proposed increase in the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), closely echoing a concept that Lightfoot, herself, repeatedly prescribed during her campaign for mayor.

In a June letter addressed to Lightfoot, 24 Chicago aldermen who characterized themselves as “strong supporters of a solution to dramatically reduce homelessness in Chicago” asked the mayor to back the proposal, which would fund services and housing opportunities benefiting the more than 86,000 city residents experiencing homelessness. Continue reading Bring Chicago Home: Majority of Chicago aldermen sign onto proposal to combat homelessness

CCH advocacy leads to passage of state bills to remove barriers

By Niya Kelly, State Legislative Director

During this successful legislative session CCH’s policy and organizing departments, along with our leaders, worked on various initiatives to remove barriers for people experiencing homelessness.

 

HB 3129 – Strengthen TANF as a Lifeline (Representative Mary Flowers and Senator Mattie Hunter)

CCH advocated for House Bill 3129 with Heartland Alliance and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law to eliminate the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) full family sanction. The cash grant is meant to provide families living in extreme poverty assistance in meeting their basic needs but sanctions can further push families into poverty and lead to children experiencing homelessness, ER visits, and food insecurity.  In providing that 75% of the grant belongs to the children, sanctions can now only be levied against the parental portion. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 17, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here

 

HB 3343The SNAP Prepared Meals Program (Representative Sonya Harper and Senator Omar Aquino)

CCH leaders with Rep. Sonya Harper

We also worked Heartland and the Shriver Center to pass the Prepared Meals for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients (House Bill 3343).  This legislation will allow people who are elderly, experiencing homelessness,  or have a disability to purchase prepared meals with their SNAP benefits.  Many either do not have access to a kitchen or are unable to use their kitchen safely. This bill will permit these populations to go to restaurants and grocery stores with hot bars to purchase meals at concession pricing. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 17, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here

 

SB 1641 – End Hunger on Campus (Senator Robert Peters and Representative Nicholas Smith)

Under the College Hunger Expansion, Senate Bill 1641, students will be notified of preliminary SNAP eligibility by their college/university, based on their Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant eligibility. Students will still be required to fill out and apply for SNAP with the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS).  They must also comply with SNAP requirements mandated by the Federal government in order to qualify for benefits. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 31, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here.

 

HB 3331Strengthen the Homelessness Prevention Program (Representative Delia Ramirez and Senator Laura Fine)

In organizing Continuums of Care around the state, House Bill 3331 clarified providers’ ability to assist people who may need support with arrearages and short-term housing assistance going forward and permits more comprehensive case management through this 20-year-old program. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 22, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here.

 

HB 2983 – Launching Youth Into Stability (Representative Justin Slaughter and Senator Suzy Glowiak)

In working to ensure youth leaving systems of care are stable, House Bill 2983, Launching Youth Into Stability, will charge departments to come to the table to determine the number of youth leaving systems of care who enter into homelessness and find better ways in which to serve them. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 17, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here

 

SB 1780 – Housing as a Human Right (Representative Curtis Tarver and Senator Omar Aquino)

CCH leaders with Rep. Curtis Tarver

As a member of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI), CCH, Heartland Alliance, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and Community Renewal Society, successfully advocated for the passage of Senate Bill 1780. This bill makes it a civil rights violation to discriminate during a real estate transaction based on an individual’s arrest record that did not lead to a conviction, a juvenile record, or a record that has been ordered sealed or expunged. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 31, and is awaiting signature by the governor.

 

SB0001 – Minimum Wage

CCH worked with partners to advocate for the increase to the minimum wage at the beginning of the legislative session.  Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $9.25 per hour. On July 1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $10 per hour. Thereafter, the minimum wage will increase by $1 per hour effective January 1 of each year, until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour on January 1, 2025. This increase will impact both people experiencing homelessness and the advocates who work with them. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law on February 19.

 

SJRCA1 – Fair Tax Constitutional Amendment

Working with the Responsible Budget Coalition, CCH testified in support of SJRCA1.  This resolution will permit the inclusion of a question on the November 2020 ballot on whether Illinois should shift from a flat income tax to a graduated income tax.

 

State Budget

Lastly, CCH worked to increase funding to the Homelessness Prevention Program with an additional $5 million, bringing the total to $9 million annually, as well as an additional $1 million in funding to homeless youth programs. The Homelessness Prevention Program saves the state thousands per household, ensuring families remain housed, but the budget has been decimated over the last decade. Advocacy by a group of providers, led by CCH, resulted in the more than two-fold increase.

CCH also worked along with its housing partners in advocating for the inclusion of funds in the state’s first capital bill in 10 years. The $200 million in funding for affordable housing has the potential to create 2,000 additional housing units across the state. This is also an increase from $145 million included in the 2009 capital bill.

Bring Chicago Home Campaign cheers aldermen who endorse its proposal in newly released 100-Day agenda

One day after hundreds gathered at a Town Hall meeting to urge Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot to prioritize a plan to combat homelessness, the Bring Chicago Home campaign received another boost Thursday when a bloc of newly elected progressive aldermen embraced the campaign as one of the chief initiatives in their “Agenda to Re-imagine Chicago.”

In response to this announcement, Bring Chicago Home released the following statement:

“We’re thankful to these eight new aldermanic leaders and Ald. Ramirez-Rosa for recognizing that alleviating Chicago’s massive homeless problem is an urgent priority — a belief that 77% of city voters echoed in a 2018 poll. Chicago’s financial commitment to combating homelessness has fallen woefully short under previous administrations and ranks near the bottom of the 10 U.S. cities with the largest homeless populations. As a result, more than 80,000 Chicagoans are currently homeless, and one in every three of them are children.  

The recent election, where issues of housing affordability reverberated at the polls, ushered in a new mayor and new aldermen who clearly understand that this has to change.  With Mayor-Elect Lightfoot supporting our goal, and the addition of these eight new aldermen to a preexisting City Council majority that backed it, as well, we’re confident that we will get our measure on the ballot next year and Bring Chicago Home.”

Youth Futures celebrates 15 years at Justice Circle reception

Updated April 10

CCH Law Project staff

Youth Futures, CCH’s mobile legal aid clinic for homeless youth, celebrated its 15 years at a Justice Circle reception April 9 at Revolution Brewpub in Logan Square.

Since its inception in 2004, Youth Futures has served nearly 3,000 youths. Youth Futures is part of CCH’s Law Project, the only legal aid program in Illinois solely dedicated to serving people and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In 2018, nearly three-fourths of cases closed by the Law Project were on behalf of homeless students and youth.

In a short program at 6:45 p.m., the Justice Circle honored:

VNA Foundation – Law Project Funder

VNA Executive Director Robert DiLeonardi with CCH Executive Director Doug Schenkelberg

VNA Foundation is a generous supporter of the Law Project, providing funding since 2016 to develop and launch StreetLight Chicago. Co-managed with the Young Invincibles, this free mobile app provides up-to-date information on resources for youth experiencing homelessness. Since its launch, the app has been downloaded more than 2,700 times. Today, VNA Foundation continues to provide critical support of CCH’s health care access and education work.

“We’ve never had a better partner than CCH. When I think of the grants we’re most proud to give, I think of the StreetLight grant and our partnership,” said VNA Executive Director Robert DiLeonardi.

JPMorgan Chase Legal Department – Pro-Bono Partner

JPMorgan Chase has provided pro-bono support of the Law Project for more than a decade. Volunteer attorneys host annual “Chase Day of Service” events, targeting youth and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. During last spring’s event, 15 attorneys helped the Law Project close 61 cases for 32 people at two elementary schools and a family shelter on Chicago’s West Side. They assisted families with birth certificate requests, public benefits, and preschool enrollment.

“We enjoy doing this work. We do it from our hearts,” said Sharlita Davis, a CCH Board member and Chase attorney who coordinates the outreach projects with CCH.

Nasia Smith – Former Youth Futures Client & CCH Scholarship Recipient

Nasia Smith (center) with CCH Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes and Associate Director Beth Malik

Nasia Smith, a former Youth Futures client, was kicked out of her home when she became pregnant at age 16. Despite coping with homelessness while raising her son, Nasia graduated second in her high school class. In 2014, she became the first CCH college scholarship winner to earn a bachelor’s degree as a single parent. She worked full-time to support her young son while earning a business degree, graduating with honors from the University of Arkansas. Today, Nasia works for a non-profit in Dallas and she and her husband are raising their four sons.

“I am so honored to be here tonight. Because of you, I had hope and my dreams came true,” Nasia said, in accepting her achievement award.

The Law Project is grateful to the signature sponsors of this year’s Justice Circle event: JPMorgan Chase and Baker McKenzie. Other sponsors include United Airlines; Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C.; and Funkhouser Vegosen Liebman & Dunn Ltd.

 

Team to End Homelessness

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is proud to return as an associate charity for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. With the race set for October 13, 2019,  we have recruited 18 runners for our 2019 Team to End Homelessness.

Though our guaranteed entry spots have been filled as of November 2018, we are still welcoming runners who received an entry through the marathon drawing.

Non-guaranteed entry runners are welcome to set their own fundraising goal, to be raised online in conjunction with their race training.

Continue reading Team to End Homelessness

Bring Chicago Home: Homeless advocates denounce Ald. O’Connor’s misrepresentations; say he was instrumental in delaying bid for ballot referendum

After motion to stall public hearing on the measure appeared to fail, O’Connor permitted repeated votes until it passed. 

A coalition backing a proposal to alleviate Chicago’s pervasive homelessness problem vehemently disputed Alderman Patrick’s O’Connor’s self-aggrandizing announcement today that he honored his “commitment” to the group, and instead said that he mounted a strenuous – and possibly improper – effort to derail their bid.

On Monday, March 11, in what appeared to be an act of parliamentary mischief aimed at stalling the proposal to expand funding for homelessness relief, the City Council’s Finance Committee, which O’Connor chairs, repeatedly strayed from proper procedures – and even misrepresented the results of a key vote – in order to delay a public hearing on the measure, according to representatives of the Bring Chicago Home campaign.

Nonetheless, O’Connor claimed in a link posted on Twitter that he “fulfilled my commitment to the Bring Chicago Home Coalition and the coalition of groups seeking to end homelessness in Chicago.”

In fact, the coalition said he played an instrumental role in thwarting a bid to conduct a public hearing on Monday regarding a resolution that would have authorized a March 2020 ballot referendum on whether the city should raise a one-time tax on the sale of properties worth more than $1 million to fund programs that combat homelessness.  Instead, Alderman Brendan Reilly disputed whether the Finance Committee was the proper jurisdiction, arguing that the ballot measure should be considered in the Rules Committee. However, unlike most ballot measures, the Bring Chicago Home proposal would have a legal effect and an impact on the city’s finances and should arguably be considered by the Finance Committee.

Continue reading Bring Chicago Home: Homeless advocates denounce Ald. O’Connor’s misrepresentations; say he was instrumental in delaying bid for ballot referendum

2019 Mayoral Candidates Voter Guide

NOTE: The voter guide has been updated to correct an earlier inaccuracy. 

A five-question questionnaire was sent to all 2019 Chicago mayoral candidates. We received responses from seven candidates: Bill Daley, Amara Enyia, LaShawn Ford, Lori Lightfoot, Susana Mendoza, Toni Preckwinkle, and Willie Wilson. The full voter guide can be found here.

The purpose of this voter guide is to educate voters impartially on a nonpartisan basis. As a 501(c)(3) organization, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless does not intend to advance the electoral interests of some candidates or to disparage others. Continue reading 2019 Mayoral Candidates Voter Guide

Join CCH at Dear Evan Hansen!

We’re selling out our last 20 tickets to Dear Evan Hansen on February 28!

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is excited to partner with Broadway in Chicago again to bring you exclusive ticket access to the critically-acclaimed Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen.

Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 7:30 p.m., Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph Street)

Purchase Dear Evan Hansen tickets here.

These are Loge/Dress Circle seats. When you buy tickets through the provided link, 36% of the ticket price is a tax-deductible donation to CCH to help further our mission.