CHHRGE coalition urges city, Cook County courts to enact robust plan to ensure safe, equitable participation in hearings and reduce COVID–19 exposure among the most vulnerable

Editor’s Note: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has signed on to the following letter, sent July 13 to Timothy C. Evans, chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and to E. Kenneth Wright, Jr., presiding judge of the First Municipal District Court Civil Division.

The letter was submitted on behalf of the Chicago Homelessness and Health Response Group for Equity (CHHRGE), a coalition of healthcare and emergency shelter providers responding to the COVID–19 pandemic among those most vulnerable to the virus.

Subject: General Order 2020-12 Procedures for Civil Division Matters

The courts opened on July 6, 2020 with a massive influx in litigants appearing for non-emergency civil matters. At times, lines have grown long and dense at Daley Center with limited space to adequately distance. We have serious concerns relating to the courts’ and court-stationed Chicago police officers’ ability to adhere to the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) COVID–19 guidance and, in turn, the risk associated with people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness appearing in court. We fear that a more robust plan is needed to ensure safe and equitable participation in hearings and reduce COVID–19 exposure among the most vulnerable members of our community. Continue reading CHHRGE coalition urges city, Cook County courts to enact robust plan to ensure safe, equitable participation in hearings and reduce COVID–19 exposure among the most vulnerable

CCH increases college scholarships, awards to seven new students

Seven students awarded $14,000 college scholarships by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless this June are new high school graduates who live in Chicago, Joliet, and Tinley Park.

CCH offers a renewable scholarship to students who succeeded in school while coping with homelessness. Twenty-one students will be assisted next school year, including five sophomores, five juniors, and four seniors.

CCH is pleased to announce that the scholarship award for all students will increase to $3,500 a year. This first increase in five years is thanks to a substantial gift in memory of Jill L. Meinzer. Continue reading CCH increases college scholarships, awards to seven new students

In memory of Jill Meinzer, CCH increases awards in college scholarship program that’s grown through long-time donor support

A generous donation given in memory of the late Jill L. Meinzer has allowed the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to increase its four-year college scholarship awards, to $3,500 a year.

Jill’s family gave a $30,000 gift in her name in spring 2019. By early 2020, Jill’s family had made gifts to eight youth-serving programs, including a second substantial gift to the CCH college scholarship program.

“Jill wanted to support youth in Chicago who want to get the education and training to further their lives,” said her sister, Karen Whitaker, an Indiana resident. She and Jill’s other two sisters and their parents planned the gifts in Jill’s memory. Continue reading In memory of Jill Meinzer, CCH increases awards in college scholarship program that’s grown through long-time donor support

CPS Focus Group parents and grandparents write public officials with concerns about summer school, resuming fall classes

The following letter was delivered this week to Dr. Janice Jackson, CEO, and other leadership at the Chicago Public Schools, including its office of Students in Temporary Living Situations. This letter also was delivered to officials in the mayor’s office and the Illinois State Board of Education. The parents group is seeking meetings with CPS and state education leaders.

We are a committee of parents and grandparents with lived experience of homelessness who have children and grandchildren enrolled in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). We are writing because we have many concerns for the summer of 2020 and the 2020-2021 school year. These past few months with schools closed were extremely challenging and disorienting for our children. Our children and other students experiencing homelessness will need robust and compassionate supports to successfully navigate the new school year. This letter addresses our specific concerns and asks that CPS and its Students in Temporary Living Situations office (STLS) implement certain supports for students experiencing homelessness. Continue reading CPS Focus Group parents and grandparents write public officials with concerns about summer school, resuming fall classes

CCH welcomes Fair Tax State Organizer Brandon Marks

We welcomed Brandon Marks to our community organizing staff this month. We asked Brandon to introduce himself.

Brandon Marks

I am beyond excited to join the staff of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless as the Fair Tax State Organizer. My work will focus on supporting and expanding the Homeless Prevention State Network in northern Illinois, with the primary goal of passing the Fair Tax ballot initiative in November.

Previously, I have contributed to efforts to unionize the fast food industry through ​the Fight for $15 and supported progressive candidates in primary elections. I also volunteer with a new mutual aid ​effort in the Logan Square neighborhood. Continue reading CCH welcomes Fair Tax State Organizer Brandon Marks

Take Action: Contact the city of Chicago Office of Budget and Management

The city of Chicago is receiving millions of dollars in new federal funds from the CARES Act that must be spent to support people experiencing homelessness through COVID-19. The city released how it plans to spend that money yesterday, and they have opened a comment period, ending this Monday, June 15, for the public to provide feedback about their proposal.

This is a crucial opportunity for the city to leverage federal dollars to provide immediate housing for people experiencing homelessness who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. While the city’s proposal does provide funding for housing in its plan, we are advocating that they dedicate more for this purpose, and we hope you will join us in this ask. Continue reading Take Action: Contact the city of Chicago Office of Budget and Management

Public health experts call on city to expand housing for homeless people jeopardized by COVID-19; say current proposal leaves gap in need

Group At Center of Efforts to Protect the Homeless From Disease Favors Robust Expenditure on “Shield Housing” for Population at “High Risk” of Infection; Part of Multi-Point Recommendations Outlined in New Report by Team Coordinating Health Care For Homeless People

A COPY OF THE REPORT CAN BE RETRIEVED HERE

PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO ACCESSED HERE

The city of Chicago’s proposed investment in housing to curb the spread of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness falls $5 million short of the amount recommended by a group of public health experts focused on protecting that vulnerable population, according to a new report released Thursday.

Members of the Chicago Homelessness and Health Response Group for Equity (CHHRGE), a coalition that has helped identify and address COVID-19 risks threatening the embattled homeless population, urged city officials to designate $21.9 million in existing federal aid to fund 1,750 units of “shield housing” – rental apartments reserved for victims of homelessness who are at high risk of succumbing to coronavirus infection. Continue reading Public health experts call on city to expand housing for homeless people jeopardized by COVID-19; say current proposal leaves gap in need

Families, rights groups demand the U.N. investigate U.S. police killings and protest suppression

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is among over 650 advocacy organizations from over 60 countries that joined with families of black Americans killed by police to demand the United Nations Human Rights Council investigate escalating police violence and repression of protests in the U.S.

GENEVA — In an unprecedented move, the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and Philando Castile, together with over 650 rights groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Human Rights Network, are demanding the United Nations Human Rights Council swiftly convene a special session to investigate the escalating situation of police violence and repression of protests in the United States. Additional signatories include Black Lives Matter and the NAACP.

“Mamie Till Mobley made a decision to open the casket of her son Emmett Till so the world could see the atrocities Black people faced in America. I want people across the world and the leaders in the United Nations to see the video of my brother George Floyd, to listen to his cry for help, and I want them to answer his cry,” said Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd. “I appeal to the United Nations to help him. Help me. Help us. Help Black men and women in America.”

The groups warn of an “unfolding grave human rights crisis” in the United States and write that the recent police killings of unarmed Black people as well as police use of excessive force and repression of protests violate United States obligations under international law. They call on the U.N. to mandate an independent inquiry into the killings and violent law enforcement responses to protests, including the attacks against protesters and journalists. The letter also calls for a U.N. investigation into the firing of tear gas by President Trump in violation of international standards on the use of force.

The United Nations Human Rights Council is the world’s highest multilateral human rights body. It is mandated to strengthen the global promotion and protection of human rights, and to address human rights violations. The council may hold special sessions to address human rights violations and emergencies if at least one-third of its member states demand.

Below is additional comment from:

Professor Gay McDougall, co-drafter of the letter and former member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: “The movement in the U.S. is resonating around the world, as minority groups in other countries are fighting common struggles against racism and exclusion.”

Salimah Hankins, executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network: “Police violence and repression is experienced by Black people all over the world as a result of experiencing and witnessing anti-black violent racism at the hands of law enforcement and racist vigilantes. We believe it is important to move this issue to the international stage to highlight the hypocrisy of the U.S. government’s stance, where it calls out human rights abuses abroad, but ignores government-sanctioned violence at home.”

Ben Crump, attorney for George Floyd’s family: “The United States has a pattern and practice of condoning the torture and extrajudicial killing of African Americans. We have exhausted our domestic legal remedies on prior countless occasions to no avail.  The George Floyd family appeals to the United Nations to intervene in his murder. Now, even though the murder of Black people is consistently captured on camera, we have yet to capture the minds and hearts of legislatures and jurors, and we have yet to capture the justice and equality promised in our Constitution and inherent in our human rights.”

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program: “It is time the United States face the same scrutiny and judgement it is quick to pass on to other countries. This accountability appeal to the United Nations follows the legacy of great Black leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X who believed in internationalizing the struggle for human rights and racial justice in the United States. As communities in the United States call on their leaders to divest from policing and end structural racism, the United Nations must support these domestic demands by holding the United States accountable for its human rights violations.”

The letter, and full list of signatories, is here: https://www.aclu.org/letter/coalition-letter-request-un-investigation-escalating-situation-police-violence-and-repression.

Jamil Dakwar

Director, Human Rights Program

American Civil Liberties Union, New York City

RROCI reentry leaders: Publicizing names of people released due to the pandemic exemplifies a system that demonizes those with records

We could not leave unanswered letters published recently in regional newspapers by State Rep. John Cabello (Machesney Park), State Sen. Brian Stewart (Freeport), a group of Republican state senators, and the Fraternal Order of Police (Chicago Lodge 7). Each letter represents a public act of violence against returning citizens like us.

Publicizing the names of people released from incarceration due to the pandemic, then painting everyone as a repeat offender or exploiting tragic loss of life, exemplifies a system that demonizes people with records.

With our lived experience, we want readers to understand the odds stacked against us. For generations, Black and Brown individuals have been set up for a life of poverty. People of color are disproportionately incarcerated, often enter the system with substance and mental health issues, and do not receive adequate resources during or after incarceration.

Our society prioritizes punishment over healing. After completing our sentences, we are never treated as full members of society. We are prosecuted in the court of public opinion. Every sentence becomes a life sentence.

We advocate for people to receive a fair opportunity to thrive after incarceration. As one of our grassroots leaders put it:

“It’s been three decades, yet I still face barriers to this day. A lot of us don’t get the chance to be seen past our record. It’s letters like these that build up that shame many of us have inside and keep us from moving forward.”

Submitted by the Reentry Leaders Committee at the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI)

RROCI is a partnership of the Reentry Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Community Renewal Society, Cabrini-Green Legal Aid, and Heartland Alliance.

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.