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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
STATE LAWMAKERS’ ADJUSTMENT TO LIGHTFOOT’S PROPOSED TAX INCREASE ON PROPERTY SALES WOULD PRODUCE NEEDED REVENUE FOR BOTH GOALS
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
We are honored that StreetLight Chicago was among 25 finalists announced Monday night at the annual Chicago Innovation Awards, the 2019 co-winner of its Collaboration Award.
A free mobile app of resources to assist homeless youth, StreetLight Chicago is a joint project of the Young Invincibles and the Youth Futures mobile legal clinic at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The app and a companion website connect youth and service providers to resources, including access to a 24/7 crisis text line and a Book-a-Bed feature at four overnight youth shelters.
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
The 2020 Census is almost here, and CCH is helping ensure that homeless children, youth, and adults across Illinois are counted. As one of 42 partner organizations with Forefront’s IL Count Me In 2020 program, CCH is providing outreach and education to support a fair and accurate count among hard-to-count communities.
Our message? People experiencing homelessness count, too!
As part of this initiative, CCH organizers and attorneys are providing census education at shelters, schools, drop-in centers, and events across Chicago in the months leading up to Census Day on April 1, 2020. This includes targeted outreach to homeless families, students, unaccompanied youth, and single adults; promoting the census to shelter providers; and distributing outreach materials. Between now and March 2020, we anticipate educating about 750 homeless people and 850 service providers as well as distributing more than 7,000 census-related handouts.
Our focus? To emphasize why a complete count is critical and inform people how to participate if they’re homeless.
This piece covers all the basics: what the census is, when it’s happening, and why it matters. It also outlines the steps a homeless person can take to make sure they’re counted, whether they are living in a shelter, on the street, or doubling-up with a friend or relative.
Help us make sure all Illinoisans are counted in the 2020 Census, no matter their housing status: