Bring Chicago Home: Advocates charge Mayor Lightfoot with breaking promise for major increase in aid to homeless; say she’s resurrecting ‘business as usual’ in city government

Lightfoot’s decision to eliminate funding for homelessness from proposed tax increase on affluent property sales breaches multiple campaign promises

By excluding funding to alleviate homelessness from a plan to raise taxes on property sales in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has broken several of the campaign promises that vaulted her into office and raised questions about whether her administration represents the departure from business as usual that she heralded in her bid to run the city, members of the Bring Chicago Home campaign said Tuesday.

Reacting to published reports that Lightfoot intends to seek approval from the Illinois legislature to increase Chicago’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) on property sales exceeding $1 million and funnel all of the money into the city’s coffers to address a budget shortfall, officials with BCH, a campaign endorsed by more than 70 organizations across the city, said Lightfoot abandoned her promise to use the same revenue source to fund relief for Chicago’s large homeless population.

Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown: Homeless advocates ‘deeply disappointed’ by Lightfoot betrayal, shift to ‘business-as-usual’ politics

Meanwhile, by eliminating support for homelessness from her plan without first seeking input from advocates on how she might be able to balance it with the need to shave the city’s budget deficit, Lightfoot strayed from her vow during the campaign to act more collaboratively than her predecessor. Beginning with promises made on the campaign trail, Lightfoot has repeatedly committed to pledge money generated from a RETT increase to fund programs that reduce homelessness.

“The Mayor has not only blatantly abandoned her campaign promise, but also the style of governing that she claimed she would usher into office,” said Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), a member of BCH. “Last month she claimed she would work with us to achieve our common goal, but she made no effort to collaborate with us before deciding within weeks to withdraw her support and cut those experiencing homelessness from her plans.  We need this Mayor to restore her commitment to creating a robust and dedicated funding stream to combat homelessness. Otherwise, she’s deserting an already marginalized population who exemplify the kind of Chicagoans she vowed to champion. And that’s just a prescription for business-as-usual in Chicago.”

While Lightfoot had said that Chicago’s burgeoning budget deficit is larger than her predecessor Rahm Emanuel had disclosed, Schenkelberg noted the city has been plagued by a structural imbalance between revenues and debt that predated the Mayoral campaign and shouldn’t absolve Lightfoot from promises she made in the context of the fiscal dilemma.

Backed by 31 aldermen who have publicly expressed support for its proposal during the current Mayoral administration, the BCH campaign has championed a pending resolution in City Council that would increase the RETT on property sales exceeding $1 million to fund reductions in homelessness and an expansion in the city’s woeful scarcity of affordable housing. That measure closely paralleled the plan that Lightfoot had advocated during her campaign.

Under the legislation, more than 94 percent of all property sales in Chicago would be exempt from a proposed increase in the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), closely echoing a concept that Lightfoot, herself, repeatedly prescribed during her campaign for Mayor.

In a June letter addressed to Lightfoot, aldermen who characterized themselves as “strong supporters of a solution to dramatically reduce homelessness in Chicago” asked the Mayor to back the proposal, which would fund services and housing opportunities benefiting the more than 86,000 city residents experiencing homelessness.

“We understand that you are balancing many priorities, but your shared interest in reducing homelessness gives us hope that a plan that would finally achieve this long-sought goal is within reach,” the aldermanic letter stated.

If adopted into law, the measure will remedy a gross shortage of funds that Chicago assigns to combatting homelessness. Its current $15.5 million annual expenditure relief ranks near the bottom of the 10 U.S. cities with the largest homeless populations.

CCH welcomes youth attorney Mary Frances Charlton

Mary Frances Charlton has joined the staff of the Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic. We asked Mary Frances to introduce herself.

I am thrilled to join CCH’s Law Project as the Youth Health Attorney! In this role, I’ll be providing civil legal representation to Chicago-area youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability and advocating for policies that reduce systemic barriers to health care and public benefits for homeless youth and adults.

Mary Frances Charlton (Photo by Claire Sloss)

Prior to coming to CCH, I worked for a consumer rights law firm, Edelman Combs Latturner & Goodwin, representing consumers in fighting unlawful debt collection and banking practices in both federal and Illinois state courts.

Before that, I spent five years as an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) in Virginia, where I led the public benefits and health programs. My work at LAJC focused on the Affordable Care Act and ensuring access to public benefits and health care for immigrant families. In addition, I taught law students in the Health Law Clinic and the Employment Law Clinic with the University of Virginia School of Law and supervised those students in representing LAJC clients.

While at LAJC, I served as lead counsel in Manning v. Caldwell, a federal challenge to a Virginia statute which was used to incarcerate homeless individuals experiencing alcohol use disorder. Fortunately, this unjust law was recently held to be unconstitutional as a result of the lawsuit. Litigating that case allowed me to spend a lot of time meeting with clients experiencing homelessness, hearing their stories, and learning from them. It also allowed me to see the countless ways the legal and health care systems are failing our communities.

I believe that dismantling the systems which perpetuate racism and poverty requires a multi-faceted approach, of which litigation is only a small part. This is one of the many great things about CCH: using the power of organizing, direct representation, policy advocacy, and most importantly, lifting up the voices of people most impacted by these unjust systems to bring us closer to justice. It matters what we do and whose voices we elevate. That’s why I’m joining CCH and I’m so incredibly lucky to be doing so.

For a little personal background, I grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, went to college at a Jesuit school called Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and got my law degree at American University’s Washington College of Law. Now that I am in Chicago, when not focusing on surviving the winter, I can be found cycling on the lakefront or trying all the delicious food that I can around town with my wife, Bridget.

 

StreetLight Chicago: Book-a-Bed adds access to more youth shelter beds

More beds have been added to Book-a-Bed! The shelter-access feature is offered on StreetLight Chicago, a free mobile app of resources for homeless youth.

Youth can reserve one of 18 beds at four overnight youth shelters. In August, La Casa Norte began offering two beds at its Logan Square shelter and five beds at its Back of the Yards shelter.

Eight beds remain available at The Crib on Chicago’s North Side and three beds at Ujima Village on the city’s South Side.

Youth or service providers assisting them can reserve a bed between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily. This can be done using either the phone app or a desktop version of StreetLight Chicago. Youth must arrive by 11 p.m. to use a bed for the night.

“Book-a-Bed helps youth who, because of work or classes, cannot attend at-the-door lotteries when shelters open for the evening,” said Beth Malik, associate legal director at CCH and lead attorney for its Youth Futures legal aid clinic.

StreetLight Chicago is a joint project of Youth Futures and the Young Invincibles, backed by generous multi-year support from the VNA Foundation.

Launched in November 2016, more than 3,200 people have downloaded the StreetLight app to date.

StreetLight Chicago offers a database of resources for homeless and unaccompanied youth, ages 16 through 24. The app provides youth with a centralized list of youth drop-in centers, shelters, health clinics, food pantries and services, including Youth Futures’ legal aid. Occasional push notifications are issued when bad weather or program-change alerts are needed.

A desktop version – at www.streetlightchicago.org – has been available since August 2017. It mirrors the app’s resource information, with printable lists and improved navigation for users seeking directions. The website expands access to StreetLight resources for youth without cellphones and makes it easier for service providers to work with youth clients.

Service providers are invited to send any listing or push notification updates to streetlightchicago@gmail.com

– Anne Bowhay, Media

Bring Chicago Home: Majority of Chicago aldermen sign onto proposal to combat homelessness

Proposal Would Fulfill Mayor’s Campaign Promise by Increasing One-Time Tax on Sales of Properties Worth More Than $1 Million to Curb Homelessness, Expand Affordable Housing

Alderman Michael Rodriguez, (22nd Ward), speaking at a July 23 press conference at City Hall

Comprising a majority of the Chicago City Council, 27 aldermen* Wednesday joined in support of a proposal championed by the Bring Chicago Home (BCH) campaign that would reduce homelessness in Chicago with funds generated from a one-time tax increase on the small fraction of city property sales sold for more than $1 million.

Under the legislation, more than 94% of all property sales in Chicago would be exempt from a proposed increase in the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), closely echoing a concept that Lightfoot, herself, repeatedly prescribed during her campaign for mayor.

In a June letter addressed to Lightfoot, 24 Chicago aldermen who characterized themselves as “strong supporters of a solution to dramatically reduce homelessness in Chicago” asked the mayor to back the proposal, which would fund services and housing opportunities benefiting the more than 86,000 city residents experiencing homelessness. Continue reading Bring Chicago Home: Majority of Chicago aldermen sign onto proposal to combat homelessness

Large numbers of homeless Chicagoans are working, been to college, new CCH study finds

ONE IN FIVE OF CITY’S HOMELESS ADULTS ARE EMPLOYED, NEARLY ONE IN THREE HAVE SOME COLLEGE EDUCATION

FINDINGS DEBUNK STEREOTYPES ABOUT HOMELESSNESS AND SUGGEST WIDESPREAD VULNERABILITY TO THE PROBLEM

Chicago’s hefty homeless population includes nearly 14,000 people who are working and more than 18,000 who have been to college – countering common misconceptions that anyone who collects a paycheck or pursues an academic degree is immune from one of life’s most desperate economic straits, a new report by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) finds.

The analysis, drawn from data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the city of Chicago, estimates that the city’s homeless population surpassed 86,000 people in 2017, the latest year for which figures are available. Continue reading Large numbers of homeless Chicagoans are working, been to college, new CCH study finds

Kudos to Kohl’s and 65 employees for their generosity

CCH is grateful to Kohl’s department stores and their employees: This spring, 65 area Kohl’s employees put together toiletry and personal hygiene kits for distribution by our organizing team.

CCH organizers distributed hundreds of kits to people during their outreach in Chicago shelters and to people who live on the street.

Kohl’s also donated $11,000 to support CCH’s work! Continue reading Kudos to Kohl’s and 65 employees for their generosity

CCH awards college scholarships at June 27 event hosted by Loyola law school

Five high school seniors have won $10,000 college scholarships awarded by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) on June 27.

New and many of the returning scholars in 2019 (Photo by Allison Williams)

CCH offers a renewable scholarship of $2,500 a year to students who succeeded in school while coping with homelessness. Our new 2019 recipients are five students living in Chicago and suburban Ford Heights and Westmont, teens who graduated from schools in Chicago, Evanston, Oak Park, and Dyer, Indiana.

The public was invited to attend the 5:30 p.m. reception and 6 p.m. awards ceremony hosted by Loyola University Chicago School of Law, 25 E. Pearson St. Continue reading CCH awards college scholarships at June 27 event hosted by Loyola law school

Join CCH at fun summer events – rooftop yoga, golf outing, and a sunset cruise

By Michael Nameche, Director of Development

CCH has packed this summer with fun events that will support our work.  Here are three upcoming fundraisers where everyone is welcome!

Saturday, July 13

Rooftop Yoga

Join the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Associate Board at the Fitness Formula Club, 1030 N. Clark St., #600. We’ll meet on the club rooftop for a 1-hour yoga session, 10:30 a.m. -11:30 a.m., followed by a light breakfast and mimosas.

All proceeds benefit CCH.  Tickets for $20 can be purchased HERE.

In the case of extreme heat or inclement weather, class will be held later, inside the club in the main room, from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Continue reading Join CCH at fun summer events – rooftop yoga, golf outing, and a sunset cruise

CCH advocacy leads to passage of state bills to remove barriers

By Niya Kelly, State Legislative Director

During this successful legislative session CCH’s policy and organizing departments, along with our leaders, worked on various initiatives to remove barriers for people experiencing homelessness.

 

HB 3129 – Strengthen TANF as a Lifeline (Representative Mary Flowers and Senator Mattie Hunter)

CCH advocated for House Bill 3129 with Heartland Alliance and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law to eliminate the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) full family sanction. The cash grant is meant to provide families living in extreme poverty assistance in meeting their basic needs but sanctions can further push families into poverty and lead to children experiencing homelessness, ER visits, and food insecurity.  In providing that 75% of the grant belongs to the children, sanctions can now only be levied against the parental portion. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 17, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here

 

HB 3343The SNAP Prepared Meals Program (Representative Sonya Harper and Senator Omar Aquino)

CCH leaders with Rep. Sonya Harper

We also worked Heartland and the Shriver Center to pass the Prepared Meals for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients (House Bill 3343).  This legislation will allow people who are elderly, experiencing homelessness,  or have a disability to purchase prepared meals with their SNAP benefits.  Many either do not have access to a kitchen or are unable to use their kitchen safely. This bill will permit these populations to go to restaurants and grocery stores with hot bars to purchase meals at concession pricing. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 17, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here

 

SB 1641 – End Hunger on Campus (Senator Robert Peters and Representative Nicholas Smith)

Under the College Hunger Expansion, Senate Bill 1641, students will be notified of preliminary SNAP eligibility by their college/university, based on their Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant eligibility. Students will still be required to fill out and apply for SNAP with the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS).  They must also comply with SNAP requirements mandated by the Federal government in order to qualify for benefits. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 31, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here.

 

HB 3331Strengthen the Homelessness Prevention Program (Representative Delia Ramirez and Senator Laura Fine)

In organizing Continuums of Care around the state, House Bill 3331 clarified providers’ ability to assist people who may need support with arrearages and short-term housing assistance going forward and permits more comprehensive case management through this 20-year-old program. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 22, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here.

 

HB 2983 – Launching Youth Into Stability (Representative Justin Slaughter and Senator Suzy Glowiak)

In working to ensure youth leaving systems of care are stable, House Bill 2983, Launching Youth Into Stability, will charge departments to come to the table to determine the number of youth leaving systems of care who enter into homelessness and find better ways in which to serve them. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 17, and is awaiting signature by the governor. Fact sheet available here

 

SB 1780 – Housing as a Human Right (Representative Curtis Tarver and Senator Omar Aquino)

CCH leaders with Rep. Curtis Tarver

As a member of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI), CCH, Heartland Alliance, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and Community Renewal Society, successfully advocated for the passage of Senate Bill 1780. This bill makes it a civil rights violation to discriminate during a real estate transaction based on an individual’s arrest record that did not lead to a conviction, a juvenile record, or a record that has been ordered sealed or expunged. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 31, and is awaiting signature by the governor.

 

SB0001 – Minimum Wage

CCH worked with partners to advocate for the increase to the minimum wage at the beginning of the legislative session.  Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $9.25 per hour. On July 1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $10 per hour. Thereafter, the minimum wage will increase by $1 per hour effective January 1 of each year, until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour on January 1, 2025. This increase will impact both people experiencing homelessness and the advocates who work with them. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law on February 19.

 

SJRCA1 – Fair Tax Constitutional Amendment

Working with the Responsible Budget Coalition, CCH testified in support of SJRCA1.  This resolution will permit the inclusion of a question on the November 2020 ballot on whether Illinois should shift from a flat income tax to a graduated income tax.

 

State Budget

Lastly, CCH worked to increase funding to the Homelessness Prevention Program with an additional $5 million, bringing the total to $9 million annually, as well as an additional $1 million in funding to homeless youth programs. The Homelessness Prevention Program saves the state thousands per household, ensuring families remain housed, but the budget has been decimated over the last decade. Advocacy by a group of providers, led by CCH, resulted in the more than two-fold increase.

CCH also worked along with its housing partners in advocating for the inclusion of funds in the state’s first capital bill in 10 years. The $200 million in funding for affordable housing has the potential to create 2,000 additional housing units across the state. This is also an increase from $145 million included in the 2009 capital bill.

CCH welcomes new staff, Arturo Hernandez and Samuel Carlson

Arturo Hernandez and Samuel Carlson

This May, we welcomed two new staff members to CCH’s legal and public policy staff. We asked Arturo Hernandez and Samuel Carlson to introduce themselves.

Arturo Hernandez

I am excited to return to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, especially in the role as a staff attorney with the Law Project. I previously worked at CCH as a Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) intern, and then I returned to CCH for a one-year law fellowship shortly before I graduated from law school in 2012.

After serving as a law fellow, I worked as an attorney at the Chicago Legal Clinic, Inc. (CLC) for a little over six years. At CLC, I mainly worked with pro se litigants who were involved in the mortgage foreclosure process. I provided legal consultations to the pro se litigants, apprising them of their legal rights and options in the mortgage foreclosure process. I also provided direct representation to clients in mortgage foreclosure cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

I was born in Chicago and I have lived on the Northwest Side of Chicago for most of my life. Both of my parents, however, are immigrants from Mexico. Having the ability to speak Spanish has not only been a valuable asset in my work but has also been helpful in bonding with my family. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and encouraged me to follow a path of helping others. After graduating from high school, I served in the United States Army.

As a law student at the John Marshall Law School (JMLS), I was a clinical student at the JMLS Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic. As a disabled veteran myself, working with veterans was an extremely rewarding experience. As a law student at JMLS, I was also a clinical intern at the JMLS Fair Housing Clinic.

Outside of work I enjoy volunteering in the community. I serve on the Housing & Land Use Committee of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA). I am also currently on the Board of Directors of LSNA.

As an attorney with the Law Project of CCH, I believe that I will be able to make a significant impact in the lives of people who are homeless or facing housing instability.

Sam Carlson

I am thrilled to join the policy and advocacy team! I am the Research and Outreach Manager, a new position that includes working in the business and faith communities. Before joining CCH, I worked at LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation) in their Housing Practice Group. I provided court support and housing advocacy for Cook County residents facing housing legal matters. This work was funded by the Chicago Department of Public Health.

I am currently a member of the Chicago Area HIV Integrated Services Council (CAHISC). This community-elected planning body provides guidance on the allocation of funding to HIV prevention, care, and housing services in Chicago and surrounding collar counties. I am also involved in community housing coalitions and working groups, including the Midwest Harm Reduction Roundtable, Housing Locators Working Group, and the HIV Housing Task Force.

 I graduated with a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from DePaul University, with a specialization in international public management. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in peace, justice, and conflict studies from Goshen College in Indiana. My academic focus was displacement and it has included study in Cambodia and Palestine.

– Photo by Claire Sloss, Media