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

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

Alderman Walter Burnett – Photos by Sam Carlson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, contact CCH Policy Director Julie Dworkin.