Statement: We stand with those protesting white supremacy and systemic racism

What Chicago is experiencing in this moment is the result of white supremacy and systemic racism. We saw it as the pandemic took hold, and we see it as police officers continue to murder Black members of the community.

Where does someone experiencing homelessness go when the city institutes a curfew? How do they access essential needs like food and medical care when the city shuts down public transportation? Where do students and families experiencing homelessness find food when Chicago Public Schools (CPS) shut down food distribution?

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’ grassroots leaders, staff, and board stand in solidarity with those protesting in the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. The protests are about more than these three tragedies. These protests are about a long history of violence and injustice that has been actively ignored by those with the power to change racist systems and policies.

In this moment, we demand the following actions be taken:

  • Reverse the decision to shut down food distribution at CPS schools so that impoverished families and their children have access to the food they need to survive.
  • Fully reopen Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) lines so that people, particularly those who are experiencing homelessness, can access services, food, and shelter.
  • Stop any and all sweeps at encampments that are not specifically requested by people living there and ensure no people experiencing homelessness are harassed due to their housing status.
  • Invest in real housing to serve the close to 80,000 people in our city who are living on the streets, in shelters, and doubled-up. This action includes:
    1. Using CARES Act funding to create rapid rehousing that will serve as a bridge to permanent housing with supportive services.
    2. Create real, dedicated funding at scale in Chicago for permanent housing with supportive services.

As an organization, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will provide financial and personal support to our peers leading this movement. In addition, our white staff commit to showing up and following the lead of leaders of color as we push for systemic change.

Enrollment open for CPS preschool – children from homeless families promised priority placement

Chicago families with preschool-age children can now enroll in preschool for the 2020-21 school year.

Children must be 3 years old or 4 years old by September 1, 2020 to be eligible for the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) preschool program next year. A family can apply for up to two different preschools.

Families can apply online at http://chicagoearlylearning.org They can also apply by phone, at (312) 229-1690.

CPS promises priority placement for children in families experiencing homelessness. Still, it is important to apply as early as possible to avoid being placed on a waitlist. Enrollment opened on May 21.

The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is available to answer questions and help families by phone with completing the application for preschool enrollment.

Call Education Attorney Alyssa Phillips at 1 (800) 940-1119 if you need assistance with preschool enrollment.

Children experiencing homelessness can be enrolled in preschool without proof of address, income, guardianship or other documents normally needed for enrollment. This includes children living in shelters, those sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing or economic hardship (“doubled-up”), or those living in other temporary living situations.

Families experiencing homelessness should indicate their living situation on the application and notify the person assisting them with preschool enrollment.

Early childhood education is a crucial component to a child’s development and future academic success. Studies show that children who attend preschool are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and stay out of the criminal justice system.

CCH advocacy for a new state budget that includes $396 million for housing assistance

By Niya K. Kelly

Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation

Because of COVID-19, the Illinois legislative session was cut short this spring. Our legislative agenda shifted to making sure that our providers and people experiencing homelessness are equipped with the funding and services to make it through this trying and unique time.

Returning to Springfield this week, the General Assembly had a short priority list of bills to take up. These included the Fair Tax ballot measure language, voting modifications for the upcoming presidential election, and of course, the state budget for Fiscal Year 2021. Legislators approved a $40 billion state budget by early Sunday, May 24.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) advocates for multiple line items in the state budget, including Homelessness Prevention, Emergency and Transitional Housing, Permanent Supportive Housing and Homeless Youth. Our goal was to ensure no cuts to the above line items and to provide additional funding from the federal CARES Act and Coronavirus Relief Fund for rental assistance, mortgage relief, and funding for service providers.

CCH advocacy included making sure service providers:

  • could continue to decompress their shelters and house people in hotels and permanent housing,
  • provide hazard pay for their staff,
  • and, as we enter a new world, funding for expanded rapid rehousing with services for people leaving hotels so that they do not return to homelessness.

Through the advocacy of service providers reaching out to their legislators, people with lived experience, and the work of State Rep. Delia Ramirez and State Sen. Robert Peters (both D-Chicago), each line item will remain at level funding in the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

We also were able to secure $396 million in funding for housing assistance, with the funds to be managed by the Illinois Housing Development Authority. The General Assembly allocated $1.5 billion to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to be used in the response to COVID-19, with $100 million allocated to the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The Budget Implementation bill provides that the Governor can direct funds to the State Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (State CURE) Fund or to the Local Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (Local CURE) Fund for further use in accordance with the purposes authorized by the federal CARES Act. A portion of the funds appropriated for the Local CURE Support Program may be allotted to municipalities and counties based on proportionate population.

The budget allows unique funding opportunities for us to make a meaningful effort to provide people experiencing or at risk of homelessness the opportunity to become stable in permanent affordable housing with the needed services. CCH will continue to do advocacy for people experiencing homelessness and the organizations providing them with services.

Chicago Tribune: Illinois lawmakers send Gov. J.B. Pritzker a $40 billion maintenance budget that relies heavily on federal funding

New analysis shows 76,998 Chicagoans impacted by homelessness

By Sam Carlson, Manager of Research and Outreach

A new report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless shows 76,998 Chicagoans experienced homelessness in 2018, per an annual analysis by CCH that relies on the most current U.S. census data.

Though the city’s aggregate homelessness count decreased from the prior year, Chicago saw a nearly 2,000-person increase among those who lived on the street or in shelters. It is a development with troubling connotations today: The city’s shelter system is a hotspot for COVID-19 infections and homelessness is expected to climb dramatically during the worsening economic downturn triggered by the pandemic.

Read the full report.

Per our analysis, the number who experienced homelessness decreased by 4,282 people, or 5.9% from 2017. This net decrease was concentrated exclusively among homeless people in temporary living situations, also known as living “doubled-up” or “couch-surfing.” The number who doubled-up in 2018 remained massive, at 58,872 Chicagoans.

Altogether, the 2018 homeless estimate is lower than the 86,324 people tallied in the 2017 estimate, released last year. Most of the decrease is due to methodological changes in how doubled-up homelessness is defined in the CCH analysis. That leaves an amended count of 81,280 people who experienced homelessness in 2017.

While there is no single definition of homelessness, CCH has developed a model to more accurately estimate the scope of homelessness in a city. Chicago’s estimate is drawn from data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the city of Chicago, and includes families, youth, and adults who must double-up, often in overcrowded and unreliable living situations. It is likely that their housing needs were left unmet, as they are generally ineligibile for assistance if not living in shelters or on the street.

Many of those who doubled-up were students – children, teens, and some unaccompanied youth – who struggled to get an education without a permanent family home. In the 2018-19 school year, 16,451 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students experienced homelessness, 87.5% (14,403) of whom doubled-up. Only 11% of homeless students were served by the shelter system.

This enrollment data is collected by the U.S. Department of Education, which recognizes all forms of homelessness that children and youth might experience. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a far more limited scope, not recognizing those who experience homelessness by temporarily living with others. It’s one reason why a city’s HUD-funded point-in-time count shows smaller homeless populations, as HUD only recognizes those who live on the street or in shelters.

By not recognizing the homeless status of those who temporarily stay with others, HUD shut out nearly 59,000 Chicagoans experiencing homelessness from accessing the housing support they need.

Hallazgos clave sobre la falta de vivienda en Chicago

Kluczowe ustalenia dotyczące bezdomności w Chicago

Key findings on Chicago homelessness (Simplified Chinese)

Because those in temporary living situations have little, if any, access to government assistance, it would be wrong to credit most of the drop to government spending on homeless programs. These 4,282 people were doubled-up, so they did not have access to that kind of government relief.

The only exception locally is a pilot housing program, proposed by CCH and funded by the city, that provides long-term housing subsidies to 100 homeless CPS families. The CPS Families in Transition (FIT) program has assisted about 400 children and parents since the 2017-18 school year. To secure housing assistance, city agencies assessed the most vulnerable families in six CPS schools, whether sheltered or doubled-up. After a vulnerability assessment, 59% of families that secured FIT housing had been doubled-up.

It’s clear families that double-up experience homelessness with as much difficulty as people who must turn to shelters or live on the street. It is well past time the federal government acted that way.

In the meantime, CCH is committed to making sure their stories are told.

CCH closes 5-day application period for new Mutual Aid Fund, assisting homeless and at-risk Illinois residents. Donations still accepted!

 

Updated May 28 – The coronavirus pandemic amplifies the hardships experienced by people who are homeless as well as those who have been homeless and risk facing it again.

Responding to pressing community need, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) created the CCH Mutual Aid Fund. The fund will provide direct cash support of up to $500 to about 300 Illinois residents in need.

During the 5-day application period, which ran May 11 – 15, over 6,000 people applied. There are funds enough to assist about 300 applicants.

CCH continues to accept designated donations so that it can assist as many people as possible. If funds remain available, a second application period will be announced at a later date.

Individuals interested in supporting the fund with tax-deductible gift can donate at www.chicagohomeless.org/MutualAid

CCH grassroots leaders – people who have experienced homelessness and work in partnership with CCH staff – run the fund. Leaders designed the fund and will decide which requests receive support. Grants will be dispersed by late June.

“Tragically, the homeless community has been overlooked and underserved. The COVID-19 crisis is no exception. It’s important that the Mutual Aid Fund is governed by people with lived experience because we have a unique perspective on the needs of our community,” said Edrika Fulford, a grassroots leader and founding member of the Mutual Aid Committee.

“As an organization that works to build power for people who are often pushed to the side, it is important to CCH that we create a fund run by our leaders,” added Community Organizer Alyssa Rodriguez.

The 5-day application period opened at 9 a.m. Monday, May 11. People could apply online, in English or Spanish and at any hour, through the CCH website – www.chicagohomeless.org – until it closed at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 15.

Applicants also could apply over the phone, at (312) 641-4148. Phone calls were answered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On the final day, May 15, calls were taken from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. If phone lines are busy, applicants can leave a message with their phone number. A CCH operator returned all calls by May 27 to help them fill out an application. Spanish-speaking operators were available.

The fund is open to residents of Illinois who are currently homeless or have been homeless in the past and at risk of becoming homeless again. Applicants must be at least 18 years old; or if they are an unaccompanied youth, at least 16 years old. Undocumented individuals and permanent residents are welcome to apply. No more than one grant per household will be awarded.

The fund will have up to $150,000 to distribute, thanks to support given by Affirm Cares Employee Foundation, Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, Grassroots Collaborative, Homestead Affordable Development Corporation, Jay Pritzker Foundation, and over 190 individual donors.

“With over 80,000 people in Chicago experiencing homelessness, we know that this fund cannot help everyone facing hardship. But we hope that it can make a difference in the lives of those we can reach as we continue to advocate for broader systems change, putting both funding and policies in place that will end homelessness once and for all,” said Doug Schenkelberg, CCH’s Executive Director.

 

CCH joins education advocates asking Illinois to commit CARES Act education-funding to the needs of marginalized students

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has signed onto a letter that asks Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education to prioritize using CARES Act federal education funding to reduce racial gaps and other disparities faced by marginalized students during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

With over 25 educational advocacy organizations signed on, the May 4 letter outlines immediate priorities of an emerging coalition led by Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Chicago United for Equity, and Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education.

The new coalition is called the Partnership for Equity & Education Rights, or the PEER Illinois Coalition.

PEER IL believes that every child should have an excellent public school in their neighborhood and that the ongoing disinvestment in neighborhood public education disproportionately impacts children of color and young people living in poverty.

– Alyssa Phillips, Education Attorney

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

Introducing Policy Specialist Destiny Carter

Destiny Carter has joined the public policy staff at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Her work is focused on reentry and criminal justice reform and Springfield-based advocacy. We asked Destiny to introduce herself. 

Destiny Carter (Photo by Claire Sloss)

My passion for advocating for underserved communities started at a very young age. Growing up in poverty, with a single parent, and moving frequently allowed me to see a variety of trauma and situations many people with low income face.

Throughout my childhood, I witnessed and personally experienced parents working 60+ hours a week to get by, families doubling up, and families living in questionable housing conditions. I saw the impact poverty had on generations and the impossibility of economic mobility.

Finally, I witnessed first-hand the curse that poverty placed upon black and brown people, people with disabilities or mental illnesses, and the formerly incarcerated. In living through these experiences, I knew that I had to be a facilitator for change.

This drive led me to law school, where I felt that helping individuals navigate through the problematic system of criminal justice could make a meaningful impact on these communities. Nevertheless, I soon realized that even with the great efforts public defenders and civil rights attorneys made, the underlying systems of oppression lingered.

Working with attorneys in civil rights law and criminal defense, I often saw how poverty and minority status had a significant impact on an individual’s entry into the criminal justice system. Even worse, I witnessed the additional barriers and trauma that criminal justice creates when an individual finally reenters society. This sparked my passion for reentry policy.

Policy is important to me because it allows me to advocate for change in the underlying systems that influence so many people’s lives. I am excited to be apart of a great organization like CCH and advocate for legislation that targets these underlying systems to create systemic change and allows people to stand on their own two feet.

Not only is this work important for the communities I’ve been apart of, it is also personal to me. I chose this work because I want to help families like my own create stability and break generational curses. My hope is that my time at CCH will help give communities a fighting chance and change the state of Illinois for the better.

 

Governor extends eviction relief, CCH joins advocates seeking increased relief for those who are unstably housed

By Samuel Carlson, Research and Outreach Manager

Princeton University’s Eviction Lab runs a COVID–19 Housing Policy Scorecard that now ranks Illinois 14th among the states in its eviction and housing-related responses to the pandemic.

Illinois’s ranking climbed 19 points after Gov. JB Pritzker’s issued an April 23 executive order that stops the initiation and enforcement of eviction orders during the current disaster proclamations, which run through May 30.

During this time, Illinois landlords cannot file eviction cases.

Additionally, law enforcement cannot remove a tenant from their housing or commercial business unless they are “a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants.” The Illinois Commerce Commission has also required that utility companies suspend disconnections of electric, natural gas, and water service during the pandemic.

Eviction Lab cites 13 other housing measures that could be considered in Illinois to respond to the crisis. Without further action, the state is expected to see increases in evictions and, inevitably, a surge in the homeless population.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) has joined with other housing advocates, concerned about the growing threat of increased homelessness in a state with 3.9 million residential renters. We are pushing for several additional measures that would offer increased relief for those who are unstably housed.

As record-breaking unemployment rates continue to rise across the U.S., housing instability grows among Chicago households. An estimated 3% of applicants to the Chicago COVID–19 Housing Assistance Grant Program received financial support, leaving 81,000 households struggling to maintain their housing. In Chicago and across the state, advocates are coordinating efforts to curb the COVID–19 impact on renters precariously housed. 

At the local level, Chicago Ald. Matt Martin (47th) introduced a city ordinance that would give Chicago renters who recently lost their income a 12-month grace period to pay their rent. “Thousands of Chicagoans have seen their income reduced or eliminated entirely as a result of COVID–19, particularly individuals who work in the retail, food-service, and hospitality industries,” the legislation reads. The city ordinance also asks Gov. Pritzker to enact other housing payment relief efforts, including relief for mortgage holders.

At the local and state level, CCH joins the Right to Recovery Coalition in advocating for increased tenant protections and homelessness prevention funding. Legislative demands include “an indefinite moratorium on evictions, halt all court hearings and filings for evictions and foreclosures, and waive the collection of all rent, mortgage, and utility payments throughout the duration of the crisis. Tenants unable to move during the crisis must be granted automatic lease extensions, and officials must find immediate housing for all those who are houseless and unable to self-quarantine.”

On behalf of those in subsidized housing, CCH works in a coalition of eight other advocacy organizations, convened by Housing Action Illinois and Legal Aid Chicago. We advocate eviction moratoria for people precariously housed in programs managed by the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund (CLIHTF) and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA). Tenants who live in the Rental Housing Support Program or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit supported properties will be among the hardest hit renters of subsidized housing because those programs do not reduce rent obligations when tenant income decreases.

At the federal level, CCH grassroots leaders are advocating with congressional representatives for emergency rental assistance, eviction and foreclosure moratoria, and homelessness prevention measures, following the recent CARES Act.

Increased relief for Illinois renters is needed to prevent a massive increase in homelessness. We are at a crucial time when a housing and homelessness response becomes paramount to flattening the curve.

 

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.