Homeless Memorial, Dec. 17: Remember their names – gathering to remember homeless Chicagoans who died in 2019

WHAT

For the tenth year in a row, a coalition of Chicago-based homeless service providers and advocacy agencies will hold an interfaith candlelight vigil and memorial service in the sanctuary of Old St. Patrick’s Church to remember Chicagoans who died without a home.

The 750-seat church fills for this hour-long service, held to remember by name the homeless people who died this past year in Chicago. The service includes a performance by the Harmony, Hope & Healing choir.  Families, youth, and adults experiencing homelessness will be hosted at a dinner prior to the event.

WHEN

Tuesday, December 17, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

WHERE

Old St. Patrick’s Church, 700 W. Adams Street, Chicago

WHY

Based on most recent census data, 86,324 Chicagoans experienced homelessness in 2017, per an analysis by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Eighty-one percent lived doubled-up in the homes of others, often in overcrowded conditions. Our city’s homeless community included 34,870 children and adults living in families. Each year, an estimated 2.5 million to 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

WHO

This service is affiliated with National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, one of more than 150 events across the U.S. organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless. Chicago’s service is supported by:

  • Ignatian Spirituality Project works to end homelessness by providing Ignatian retreats to men and women who are homeless and in recovery.
  • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless organizes and advocates to prevent and end homelessness, based on the belief that housing is a human right in a just society.
  • Harmony, Hope & Healing offers creative, therapeutic and educational music programs, providing emotional and spiritual support to homeless and underserved women, men and children in the Chicago area.
  • Old St. Patrick’s Church extends hospitality to all that find the church on their path, and to serve the life and work of the laity in the world.
  • Franciscan Outreach serves more than 7,600 men and women who are experiencing homelessness each year, by providing healthy meals, safe shelter, and comprehensive services.

 

Three women with disabilities sue supportive housing program for discontinuing rent payments

Facing imminent homelessness, three women with disabilities sued a supportive housing program for formerly homeless people after the program stopped paying their rent.

The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Legal Aid Chicago allege a failure to provide due process and reasonable accommodations of their disabilities in a case that was filed November 27 in state court.

Kenora Roberts, Carissa Marshall, and Janice Johnson all have disabilities and are low-income, making it impossible for them to secure housing on their own in the private housing market. For example, Ms. Marshall, who lives with her two minor children, suffers from a traumatic brain injury and is permanently disabled as a result.

The women’s rent was subsidized by defendant Human Resource Development Institute (HRDI). Through no fault of Ms. Roberts, Ms. Marshall and Ms. Johnson, HRDI stopped making rental assistance payments in August 2019. HRDI’s failure to pay rent put the women at risk of eviction and facing homelessness yet again.

Ms. Johnson and Ms. Roberts landlords have both filed eviction actions against them. Ms. Johnson’s eviction case is set for trial on December 9.

Ms. Roberts told the Chicago Tribune that the prospect of being homeless again “feels even lower than what it was (before), because… you did everything that you were supposed to do.”

Chicago Tribune, Dec. 4: Formerly homeless people file lawsuit against Chicago agency after it suddenly stopped helping them

HRDI failed to provide sufficient notice and review before stopping the rental assistance payments, failed to transition the women to other supportive housing programs and failed to make reasonable accommodations of their disabilities. In a previous interview with the Tribune, HRDI blamed a loss of HUD funding.

“This is a systemic failure and all relevant agencies should work together to take responsibility and prevent our clients from becoming homeless again,” said Legal Aid Chicago Supervisory Attorney Michelle Gilbert.

“At this time of year, with cold weather approaching, we hope this case will prevent vulnerable people with disabilities who previously experienced homelessness from losing their housing yet again,” said Law Project Associate Director Beth Malik.

The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and for preliminary injunction Wednesday and will be in court on December 12.

– Patricia Nix-Hodes, Director, The Law Project

CBS Chicago, Sept. 23: Chicago housing assistance program loses federal funding, puts people’s housing situations in jeopardy

 

 

Giving Tuesday: Please help us meet a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $50,000

Dec. 4 UPDATE:

With thanks to 391 generous donors, CCH exceeded its match challenge, with gifts totaling $60,184. 

Many thanks to all!

We invite you to be a part of our #GivingTuesday effort this year!

We are grateful that this Giving Tuesday, December 3, all donations to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000 total. This match is made possible by a generous challenge grant from an anonymous donor family.

Now in its 8th year, Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving backed by the power of social media.

Your support with a tax-deductible gift of any size will help us reach critical fundraising goals – supporting vital work to prevent and end the homelessness that impacts thousands of Chicago area families, youth and adults.

Supporters are asked to share our #GivingTuesday message on social media — or consider joining those who are helping us as “Giving Tuesday Ambassadors.”

Sign up by going to www.chicagohomeless.org/giving-tuesday and clicking the “Create my own fundraising page” link. You will be sent an email with a link to edit your goal, photo, and bio. Then you’re all set to share your link with friends and family on Giving Tuesday.

CCH is the only non-profit in Illinois solely focused on advocacy for and with people experiencing homelessness.  Rated a 4-star charity by Charity Navigator, CCH is among 77 U.S. organizations on Charity Navigator’s “Perfect 100” list for their scores on financial health and accountability.

CCH also holds top rankings from Guidestar and is a 2019 Great Nonprofit, based on online endorsements from volunteers and donors.

Please contact Director of Development Michael Nameche with any questions.

National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week: Mother and 18-year-old son share why they’re grassroots leaders

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

Our final essays are written by Margaret Bingham and her son, John Tyrese Daniels. They are grassroots leaders on the Bring Chicago Home housing campaign.

Margaret Bingham and her daughter, Mariah

My name is Margaret Bingham. I became homeless ever since I lost my mom in the year 1991. I didn’t have nobody to turn to. I started sleeping on the bench in the park and my baby Mariah would be sleeping in her stroller. Then I started going to different places to live and went house to house. I would stay with my family members but could not stay with them for too long because the houses would be too crowded. Also, there were multiple deaths in my family since 1991 to 2018, so I have been living doubled-up for years.

I have a 10-year-old daughter named Mariah. She’s been in seven schools since she has been born and lived in different houses. Also, she has been bullied at all the schools she’s been to. But she is a smart girl and all her teachers say that about her.

I like being involved with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless because they help me get resources. I like helping to fight for affordable housing and help homeless people that are living on the street. I want to help the 86,000 people who are homeless right now like me.

Margaret Bingham

I like going to the meetings with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless because they go to Springfield to talk to senators and representatives to help get housing for the homeless in Chicago because we need it.

If you walk down the street today, you will see more people out there sleeping in the parks, at the bus stops, and train stations. It hurts me when I see people living out there in the cold and snowy weather. The city should be helping the homeless. Right now, I need a home that I can call my own.

I will continue to fight until we have housing for everyone.

+++

John Tyrese Daniels, volunteering at a Bring Chicago Home action this summer

Hi, my name is John Tyrese Daniels. I am an 18-year-old male. I was young when I was taken away from my mother. Finding her again and coming home to my mother has been stressful because she doesn’t have a stable place to live. On top of that, I have a 10-year-old sister who has experienced hardship through homelessness at this very time.

Homelessness is a problem. This problem can affect people in many ways. One way is that it puts stress on the table for the family and in this case my single mother. My mother on top of taking care of my little sister with her school also must worry about providing her a warm shelter.

I stress daily thinking about this situation because how can the city not be providing services to families in need.

Margaret and John work with CCH Community Organizer Bisma Shoukat.

Photos by Claire Sloss

National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week: Advocacy comprised of anger and love

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

By Ezra Lintner, intern with the CCH Law Project

I once read that great advocacy is comprised of 50% anger and 50% love. While math has never been my strong suit, I suspect these percentages are correct. This calculation, simply put, is what inspires my work at CCH.

Ezra Lintner

Unfortunately, anger is not hard to summon when one works with communities experiencing homelessness and poverty. I often experience a deep anger that our economic system is such that a handful of incredibly wealthy people continue to grow wealthier at the grave expense of the majority of Americans. Indeed, our system constantly attempts to oppress the people it claims to benefit. To make matters worse, it is sold as something that can be beneficial to all – if one just works hard enough to “make it.”

I have seen, in my personal and professional life, that this is simply untrue: despite endless hard work, millions of Americans are stuck in a system that ultimately cannot yield the comfort, safety, and prosperity that all people deserve. With these systemic failures in mind, it is not hard to confidently state that my work is 50% advocacy based in anger.

Anger alone, though, is never enough. The question then becomes: what do we do with that anger? To answer this question, I believe we must turn to, and ultimately be driven by, love for the communities we desire to serve. My work would be impossible if it was only inspired by anger! While anger creates the need for my work, love provides the truest source of inspiration.

The communities we serve at CCH are incredibly vibrant and tenacious. The clients I have serve are some of the most tireless advocates I have had the pleasure of working alongside. Working with our clients, then, becomes a joint endeavor in advocacy and a true partnership. I am a firm believer that we cannot defend a community without also dedicating time to celebrate the beauty and accomplishments of the community itself. If we fail to root our inspiration in love, we are left with only anger to fall back on – and indeed, that’s only half the equation.

Ezra is a third year law student at DePaul University College of Law.

Portrait by Claire Sloss

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!

 

Juanita works with CCH Community Organizer Bisma Shoukat.

Link to more information on National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

 

Derrick is on track with a new job – and soon, a home

Derrick Lyons is grateful for a life and career that are on track after years of being homeless.

He credits rediscovering his faith and his voice, including his volunteer work as a community leader with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Derrick Lyons at The Hatchery Chicago

“I thought it was the end of the road,” Derrick says of life two years ago. “I was so depressed… I took a big look at myself and thought you know what, something has to change.

“I started going to church, and then I joined CCH, where there are people fighting to end homelessness. That kind of encouraged me, until I started working again.”

In April, Derrick landed a position as kitchen facilitator at The Hatchery, a new food and beverage business incubator on Chicago’s West Side. He applied after asking for a referral from the men’s shelter where he lived, Breakthrough Urban Ministries.

With an associate degree from Malcolm X College and certificates in culinary and kitchen sanitation, Derrick finally landed the full-time job opportunity he’d trained for. Now living with a cousin, helping to care for her ailing mother, Derrick hopes to overcome community reentry barriers to secure an apartment of his own.

Derrick first experienced homelessness after his family lost their home to foreclosure over a decade ago. Unable to secure full-time work, he could not afford housing.

“I was going to interviews with a big old suitcase. I would make an excuse, saying I had been on a trip, but it was all my clothes,” he recalls.

Derrick last became homeless after fire destroyed his sister’s house five years ago. Over the years he has lived in parks, under a bridge, in abandoned buildings, rode the El overnight, and stayed in nightly shelters. He sometimes doubled-up with friends or relatives, offering to cook and clean in exchange for a place to sleep.

“People will let you stay with them maybe three months, then they ask you to leave,” he says.

Last year, Derrick was encouraged by another Breakthrough resident to meet CCH Senior Organizer Keith Freeman. Through shelter outreach, Keith offers information to people experiencing homelessness, organizing those who are interested to work with him on the Bring Chicago Home housing campaign.

“We were talking about housing and I heard about how Chicago Coalition for the Homeless marched in the Fight for $15. I went to the first meeting and I was like, ‘You got me.’ I didn’t look back,” says Derrick, now a member of the campaign’s Grassroots Leadership Committee.

Helped by service programs that assist adults facing reentry issues, Derrick recently secured court expungement for an old record. He also earned a scholarship to Chicago State University. Working for a degree in health information administration, Derrick commutes two hours each way to attend classes two nights a week. And at his West Side church, Derrick is excited to have been chosen for a solo in the fall choir concert.

“I feel great about myself now,” he says, smiling.

“At 57, I feel that it’s been a long time coming. I finally landed a break. Life is finally changing.”

– Anne Bowhay, Media

– Photos by Allison Williams Photography

 

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