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-Rosafor 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.”
Chicago families with preschool-age children can now enroll in preschool for the 2019-20 school year.
Children must be 3 years old or 4 years old by September 1, 2019 to be eligible for the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) preschool program next year. A family can apply for up to two different preschools.
By Beth Malik, Associate Director of the Law Project
Now that the school year is coming to a close, students in Illinois look forward to special school activities, including graduation, prom, senior luncheons, and field trips.
Every year the Law Project receives many calls from low-income students and families who are being pressured by their schools to pay hundreds of dollars in fees before graduation or year-end. In some cases, school officials threaten to exclude students from important events, such as prom or graduation.
Yet under state law, many of these fees are required to be waived for students and families unable to afford them, including those who are homeless or low-income.
In most cases, a student or parent must file a written request to have their school fees waived. In the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), students or parents fill out a CPS Fee Waiver Form.
School officials cannot bar a student from participating in school activities, such as prom or graduation, due to their inability to pay. The Illinois School Code prohibits “discrimination or punishment of any kind, including the lowering of grades or exclusion from classes… against a student whose parents or guardians are unable to purchase required textbooks or instructional materials or to pay required fees.”
To qualify as low-income in CPS, a student or family cannot exceed 130% of the federal poverty guidelines (used to determine eligibility for free school meals). That includes annual incomes of $21,398 for a family of 2; $27,014, family of 3; and $5,616 for each additional family member.
In suburban and downstate schools, students who qualify for free school meals are eligible for fee waivers.
Some examples of school fees that must be waived for low-income students:
Charges for textbooks and instructional materials
Fees for field trips taken during school hours, or field trips taken after school hours if the field trip is a required or customary part of a class or school activity. This includes annually scheduled trips such as end-of-the-year or graduation field trips and activities.
Graduation fees, including caps and gowns
Charges or deposits for uniforms or equipment for sports or fine arts
Charges for supplies for a particular class, such as shop or home economics materials, or laboratory or art supplies.
Charges and deposits for use of school property, such as locks, towels, and lab equipment.
Driver’s education fees
Fees to obtain school records and health services
Schools do not have towaivesome fees and costs, including ordinary school supplies, class rings, yearbooks, school photos and diploma covers, admission to school dances and athletic events and optional travel. While these fees are not required to be waived, many schools have programs to help students and families with these costs.
The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is available to assist students and families seeking school fee waivers.
Families needing information or assistance can call toll-free at 1 (800) 940-1119.
Horizons welcomes the public to its 2019 writers showcase on Tuesday, May 21. Sponsored by the American Writers Museum, this free event will feature original poetry read by shelter-resident writers.
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is grateful to our city’s newest museum for generous sponsorship of this showcase. Opened in 2017, the American Writers Museum at 180 North Michigan Avenue was voted Illinois’ best attraction in a USA Today Readers Choice poll and named one of the world’s 10 best new museums by Fodor’s.
Horizons is a creative writing outreach program offered at shelters and transitional housing programs, led by Director of Organizing Wayne Richard. This year, CCH’s Alyssa Rodriguez and Bisma Shoukat assisted Wayne in offering creative writing sessions with men and women at programs where they organize homeless families and adults, including women and men in reentry.
Our 2019 writers live at Breakthrough Urban Ministries, Grace House, and La Posada. Their writing is prompted using the “power to pain” model. Participants are asked to write about their experiences with homelessness, and later, finding their voice as advocates.
Last May’s showcase at the museum drew almost 100 people, including shelter residents and their families. The audience was asked to cheer for their favorite work at the close of the evening. Showing enthusiasm for all the writers, the audience selected D Naize for her moving poem, “Faded Hope.”
Of the loud cheers for her work, Ms. Naize joked, “Some of them are my kids!”
The youngest participant, 10-year-old Terrell (Terry) Cooks, was runner-up. Terry said later that his poem, “Future and Past” — carefully penned in a stenographer’s notebook — is his first.
A selection of new poems will be published online in the Horizons Reading Room and in a booklet distributed at the showcase.
Wayne Richard started Horizons in 2007. A CCH organizer since 2000, Wayne first became involved with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless when he participated in an early version of its writing program while living at a West Side shelter.
“Everyone has a song to sing,” said Wayne, adding that writers are encouraged when others appreciate their work.
Adler University collaborates with Horizons. Graduate student Julie Miller is this year’s program intern. Adler’s art department, led by Dr. Jennifer LaCivita, will contribute students’ “emphatic art responses” to a selection of poems. These will be displayed at the showcase, with the art given afterward to the writers whose poems inspired the drawings.
CCH thanks the American Writers Museum for its generosity in hosting our showcase for a second year.
Furnishing an apartment after being homeless is an obstacle for families who no longer have beds, chairs, and the household basics everyone needs to make a home.
Chicago Furniture Bank helps families like these. Families have been referred by 150 partner agencies in the city and suburbs, including CCH, since the furniture bank opened its warehouse space last July at 4800 W. Roosevelt Road.
CCH Senior Organizer Keith Freeman was one of the first to bring homeless families to the furniture bank, says co-founder Griffin Amdur. Ten homeless leaders active at CCH have received furniture, with more than 550 families and 1,400 people helped to date, Amdur says.
“Families love it,” said Keith. “When they first move in, they walk into an empty space with only plastic bags of clothes. There’s literally nothing else in there. At the furniture bank, they can pick out all their furnishings, even picture frames, and within 48 hours have a furnished apartment.”
The furniture bank hopes to progressively expand operations so that it can grow from serving seven households a day to 10 families daily.
“We’re looking for volunteers,” said Griffin. “We’re looking for furniture donations and donations. We’re raising funds to buy a third truck and hire two more guys.”
The furniture bank now staffs 14 people, including 11 job-training graduates from Cara Chicago and Chicago CRED. Griffin started the non-profit with fellow University of Pennsylvania grads James McPhail and Andrew Witherspoon, assisted by a $100,000 award from Penn.
The furniture bank charges $50 for a family in need to select furnishings valued at $1,100, based on thrift store prices. About half their clients also contract to have their furniture delivered ($150 curbside, $250 in home). Some agencies assist clients with the fees.
It’s obvious how relieved and excited people are when they realize they can get a bed and the other things they need to make a new home. Organizer Bisma Shoukat says her leaders have fun testing sofas to find just the right one.
“It’s even sweeter when the kids are along. They get to pick out their own bedroom sets,” said Bisma.
Keith said he recently helped one of CCH’s Bring Chicago Home leaders, a man in his late 60s, pick out furniture for a new SRO apartment.
“He’s like another person now. He’s excited. His morale is through the roof,” said Keith.
Why: Chicago needs a BIG solution to end homelessness
For decades, the city of Chicago has failed to advance a solution to address the growing number of people who experience homelessness. As a result, more than 80,000 Chicagoans are homeless each year. This includes those who live on the streets, in shelters, or “doubled-up” – staying with a friend of family member due to hardship, often in over-crowded, unreliable situations.
The lack of stable housing for many Chicagoans plays a major role in exacerbating systemic inequities that plague our city. To address this massive problem, the Bring Chicago Home coalition – over 80 organizations throughout Chicago – aims to raise the real estate transfer tax (RETT) by 1.2 percentage points on properties that sell for over $1 million. This would generate an estimated $150 million a year for permanent supportive housing, a proven model that links housing with services to ensure long-term stability for people who have coped with homelessness.
Our town hall comes at a critical moment for Chicago: Less than one week after the event, a new mayor and city council will be sworn in. Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot campaigned on being a mayor for the people. Raising the RETT to increase funds to address homelessness was a critical piece of her platform.
To date, more than 30 aldermen in the new City Council have committed to support the Bring Chicago Home resolution, which would add a ballot question asking voters whether to raise the RETT.
The coalition working for Bring Chicago Home is made up of community, policy, and labor organizations from across Chicago. If you or your organization are interested in getting more involved, contact Nick Jefferson at firstname.lastname@example.org
The sudden passing of artist Henry “Hank” Kupjack this past February was met with sadness here at CCH. Hank was a friend to CCH staff who had long harbored a dream of staging an ambitious exhibition of his unique miniature rooms, with the proceeds to benefit the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
The public will get an opportunity to view 21 of these exquisite rooms this upcoming weekend at Navy Pier in the Lakeview Terrace.
On Friday, April 19 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. there will be a preview party open to the public, with proceeds from this event benefiting CCH. Preview party tickets are $50 each and can be purchased HERE.
The 21 miniature rooms on display will be a delight for all ages – transporting the viewer into vivid glimpse of history.
Many of these rooms have never been exhibited locally. Others have been unavailable for public viewing for several decades.
To create these splendid works of art, Hank worked alongside his father, Eugene Kupjack – one of the principal artists behind the famous Thorne Rooms on permanent display at the Art Institute of Chicago. Hank also created rooms working with his brother, Jay Kupjack, and Lee Meisinger.
This retrospective exhibit will extend through the weekend, with showings on Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday are $25 for adults and $15 for students and for seniors age 65 and older. Children ages 6 and under get in free. These GA tickets can be purchased HERE.
The exhibit is being held at the Lakeview Terrace, which is at the far east end of Navy Pier, just past the Shakespeare Theatre. For drop-offs and parking, it is best to go to the last turn-in.
“Hank Kupjack made magic in miniature,” the Chicago Sun-Times wrote in February, “creating Lilliputian rooms that were richly detailed, perfectly scaled, historically accurate and enchanting.”
Applications are due in April for $2,500 renewable college scholarships awarded by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to students who have succeeded in school despite coping personally with homelessness.
Graduating seniors from Chicago and suburban schools are eligible to apply, as well as DREAMers, CCH youth leaders, and former CCH legal aid clients who are younger than age 24 as of April 1. Most scholarship winners receive $10,000 to complete their bachelor’s degree. Up to five new winners will be selected this spring.
The deadline to submit an online or paper application, with brief personal essays, was Monday, April 1, 2019 at 5 p.m.
Applicants were given an extra week to submit supplemental materials. These are due by Monday, April 8 at 5 p.m. These required materials include two references that will be reviewed by our selection committee.
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 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, 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.
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is thrilled to be the recipient of a generous donation of $11,148 from ReaderLink, a wholesale book distributor headquartered in Oak Brook.
“This contribution from ReaderLink was a most welcome surprise,” said Michael Nameche, director of development. “We are inspired by the collective generosity of ReaderLink’s employees and support of our mission to prevent and end homelessness. On behalf of all the men, women, and children we serve, thank you for your support of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.”
The donation was made through ReaderLink Cares, a community engagement initiative launched in December. The initiative allows ReaderLink employees to determine where corporate philanthropic dollars are donated by voting for the organizations that are most important to them.
In addition, staffers have the opportunity to give back further through an employee giving campaign for chosen charities. As part of the 2018 year-end campaign, CCH received a $10,000 corporate gift, plus an additional $1,148 gift donated directly by employees.
“ReaderLink is deeply committed to the alleviation of extreme poverty,” said ReaderLink President and CEO, Dennis Abboud. “We are proud to partner with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to improve awareness and access for affected persons within our community.”
Through a combination of corporate and employee giving, ReaderLink recently donated over $140,000 to 18 nonprofit organizations across six regions where it has offices and distribution centers. CCH was one of three Chicago area non-profits to receive support through this campaign. ReaderLink employs about 300 full-time employees at its Oak Brook and Romeoville locations.
To preserve our independent voice, CCH does not accept government funding. Our work to prevent and end homelessness is only possible thanks to generous support from individuals, foundations, and businesses. We are grateful to partner with those who share our commitment to housing as human right in a just society.