Back to school without a place to call home

Last week marked the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year for Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Suburban school districts also started school in recent weeks. After the difficulties and barriers families and students faced over the last two years due to the pandemic, it is more important than ever for schools to identify and support students experiencing homelessness. 

Continue reading Back to school without a place to call home

Shamaje pays it forward

Shamaje, a young Black man, smiles while posing in front of a leafy backdrop. He is wearing a gray Michael Kors sweater. White text reads: Shamaje pays it forward.

At the start of the pandemic, Shamaje Singleton, then 18, was unable to afford housing on his own. He bounced around Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, living doubled-up with various family members and sharing crowded hotel rooms with friends.  

A month after turning 19, Shamaje received wonderful news: He had been accepted into the Solid Ground transitional living program at La Casa Norte. Shamaje instantly connected to the community living in the dorm-style building in Humboldt Park.  

Continue reading Shamaje pays it forward

Match Opportunity: Support Chicagoans impacted by homelessness by donating to the CCH Mutual Aid Fund today! 

CCH’s Mutual Aid Fund (MAF) is an innovative, low-barrier direct cash-assistance program for Illinois individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Created in May 2020 in response to the pandemic, the fund was designed by and continues to be managed by grassroots leaders with lived experience of homelessness.  

To date, the Mutual Aid Fund has distributed 710 grants of $500, totaling $355,000 in direct assistance!  

MAF recipients have used the funds for critical, urgent needs, including security deposits, hotel/motel stays, monthly bus passes for work, and doctor’s appointments and medicines. 

Join us in helping even more individuals and families impacted by homelessness: Through October 31, donations up to $50,000 will be matched by long-time community partners Marta Delgado & Sam Nandi. 

CCH aims to raise at least $100,000 for the Mutual Aid Fund this year, enough to provide 200 cash grants to community members impacted by homelessness. 

Please consider supporting the Mutual Aid Fund today! 

Your support makes a difference: CCH’s Mutual Aid Fund in action 

“I did the application because I’m living in a difficult situation – I am diabetic and need a balanced diet. Sometimes I go to sleep without a dollar in my pocket, not knowing how I will pay for rent. I used the funds to buy food and pay a portion of my rent.”

Vicente H.

“Being homeless during the pandemic felt impossible, but the fund helped me with food, hygiene products and most importantly art supplies…which helped me to earn more income and to feel more secure in the post-pandemic world, that had seemed to forget the homeless. CCH didn’t forget though…the fund was there to help.”

Trevor R. 

“When I found out I was chosen to receive the Mutual Aid Funds, I was so happy and appreciative. I had recently moved into a new apartment and abruptly lost my income temporarily. I was able to open a checking account and had a little cushion to pay my bills. Resources such as this should always be available for hard-working people who do not qualify for government assistance.”

Juanita R.

CCH awards college scholarships to six first-year students, celebrates seven recent graduates

Six Chicago area high school graduates have won a CCH college scholarship to support them in their higher education journeys. They were celebrated at a luncheon with CCH staff, selection committee members, and limited guests on July 28. 

CCH’s annual award of $3,500 is renewable for up to five years as students work to complete a bachelor’s or associate degree. All first-year winners also received new laptops, made possible with a grant from long-time partner, The Osa Foundation.

Twenty undergraduate students will be supported by the CCH college scholarship program during the 2022 – 2023 school year, including six first-years, six sophomores, three juniors, and five seniors. They are attending colleges and universities in California, Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Georgia and Washington, D.C.

Continue reading CCH awards college scholarships to six first-year students, celebrates seven recent graduates

City Includes Units for People Living Doubled-up in Plan to Spend Chicago Relief Funds 

Years of Advocacy Leads to Recognition of Housing Needs for Highly Vulnerable Households 

On July 19, Chicago announced its plan for how it would spend federal relief funds designated for homelessness as well as city bond funding it had allocated for permanent supportive housing.  The plan included 35 units of permanent supportive housing for people living doubled-up or staying temporarily with others due to economic hardship. In addition, there are 35 units for returning residents and 11 units for survivors of gender-based violence that allow eligibility for people living doubled-up. 

In Chicago in 2019, 71% of the 58,000 people experiencing homelessness were living doubled-up.  Although this is the most common form of homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not recognize this living situation as homeless and therefore does not allow access to homeless-specific housing resources for those living doubled-up.  The result has been that many of these families cycle between staying in shelters and other people’s houses for years or end up leaving the city altogether.  

“People experiencing homelessness as doubled-up are often caught in limbo, with no good place to turn for safe, permanent housing and supports. That is why the City of Chicago’s proposal is so important. It not only recognizes the needs of this large population of people experiencing homelessness, but also shows that with flexible funding, cities and states can creatively address their needs. What Chicago is doing is a model for the rest of the country,” said Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

Research has shown that families living doubled-up have the same vulnerabilities and the same housing needs as those in shelters or on the streets.  In fact, they are largely the same families.  In an analysis of data from 2013-2017, the Inclusive Economy Lab found that between 49-58% of households served in our shelter system were previously living doubled-up. 

“Children in families who experience homelessness while living doubled-up with friends or relatives suffer many of the same immediate and long-term health risks as children who experience literal homelessness: developmental delays, lack of school readiness, academic failures, behavioral and mental health problems, and chronic, stress related diseases during adulthood. We are very pleased that the City of Chicago has recognized the harms and is taking initial steps to build permanent housing to help some of these children and families,” said Nancy Heil, MD, FAAP, member of the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Inclusion of these units in the plan is a big change for the city.  Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has been advocating for years for the city to use more flexible funding to serve this population, but with HUD’s strong preference for serving people that meet their definition of homelessness, it has been hard to break through.   

The plan will be submitted to HUD for approval in early August and developers for the units will be selected in 2023. 

Hotel Toledo: Eviction Avoided

In April of 2022, CCH learned that the owner of Hotel Toledo, a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel located at 6219 S. Ashland Avenue, in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood had set in motion a process to evict every tenant living in the hotel, giving the tenants until April 30th to vacate the building with all their possessions. The only notice that tenants received was the notice posted at the hotel.  

Notice posted to residents informing them that the Hotel Toledo was no longer open for residence.

Many of the tenants facing eviction had been faithfully paying their rent prior to this eviction process being implemented by the Owner. The hotel was a long-term residence for most of the tenants – many of them had lived at Hotel Toledo for years. In addition, many of the tenants experienced homelessness prior to living at the Hotel Toledo. 

The Law Project’s Case and Street Outreach Worker, Ali Simmons, it’s Director, Patricia Nix-Hodes, and Senior Attorney Arturo Hernandez, along with Nick Jefferson of CCH’s Organizing Department, immediately got involved. A meeting was held with approximately 13 of the tenants to determine exactly what was going on, and what the tenants wanted to do in response to the Owner’s actions to evict them.  

During this meeting, the tenants overwhelmingly expressed that they wanted to stay at the hotel (which is also an SRO). After the meeting, CCH delivered a letter to the owner advising that the planned eviction was unlawful and violated the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance and the Chicago Single Room Occupancy Preservation Ordinance. 

CCH reached out to Lawyers Committee for Better Housing who agreed to represent one of the tenants in a court proceeding to have a temporary restraining order issued against the owner to stop the eviction.

Notice of Eviction delivered to each tenant in the building.

CCH also reached out to City officials who also advised the owner that the eviction was unlawful and pursued legal action against the owner. These combined efforts were successful in stopping the owner’s attempt to illegally evict the tenants. The hotel was placed under a receivership which allows the hotel to remain open and the individuals living there. The illegal eviction notices were taken down, replaced with new notices advising tenants that they could stay.

 CCH continues to work with and advocate for the tenants to ensure that they understand their rights going forward. In the continued conversation CCH learned that the tenants believed that Hotel Toledo, while not an ideal place to live, was stable enough until they could secure permanent housing. This is an example of how important affordable housing is, and Bring Chicago Home is the beginning of the answer! With more done to address homelessness, and the creation of more affordable housing, individuals will have viable options for housing that do not exist for them right now.   

Chicago Latina Files Lawsuit Challenging False Arrest By Chicago Police

CHICAGO – A Chicago police officer’s obscene verbal tirade escalated into the officer’s physical assault and false arrest of a Chicago woman in June 2020, according to a federal lawsuit filed today. Chicago police are accused of unlawfully arresting Julie Campos, a Southside Latina resident—who was 19 years old at the time—at her place of employment, a Family Dollar store located on East 79th Street. The ACLU of Illinois (“ACLU”), the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (“CCH”), and the law firm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP are representing Ms. Campos in the lawsuit challenging false arrest. 
 
Ms. Campos was working at the store on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, cleaning up property damage that had occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The lawsuit asserts that, after Ms. Campos videoed the officer who physically assaulted her, Ms. Campos was falsely arrested on a trumped-up charge and unlawfully detained for hours—separated from her infant son. 

White text in all caps on a blue gradient background reads "Julie Campos v. City Of Chicago, Eric Taylor, and Treacher Howard" Center below text is the CCH Logo, a cartoon person crouched in a white house, to the right of logo reads " Law Project, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless". Lawsuit Challenges False Arrest.

“I was confused and scared throughout this entire experience,” said Ms. Campos. “It was shocking that just getting up and going to work could result in being arrested.” 

“The body cam and other video of this incident show a CPD officer completely out of control. The City never should have allowed this officer onto the street,” said Joshua Levin, staff attorney for the ACLU. The officer has a lengthy history of civilian complaints, but never had been adequately disciplined or retrained by the Chicago Police Department. 

Arturo Hernandez, a senior attorney at CCH, stated, “Ms. Campos, a young mother who was experiencing housing instability at the time, was at work trying to provide for her family when she endured this horrific experience at the hands of Chicago Police officers. This should not happen to anyone. If CPD doesn’t take action to adequately train their officers, or adequately discipline officers who engage in misconduct like the officers in this case—how will relations between the community and the police change?” 

The officers’ body camera video shows CPD Officers Eric Taylor and Treacher Howard pulled into the store parking lot where employees were busy cleaning up so that the business could reopen to serve the community. Ms. Campos was making repeated trips in and out of the back entrance to throw out trash from the damaged store. 

Content Warning: the following may be uncomfortable for some viewers. Jump to 10:30 for interaction.

While in the store parking lot, Officer Taylor instigated a shouting match with one of Ms. Campos’ coworkers. Officer Taylor made vulgar sexual comments about the employee’s mother and oral sex, using racist epithets. 

“Officer Taylor’s dehumanizing language—and his completely unnecessary escalation of conflict with this community member—is maddening to watch,” Levin added. “These Chicagoans were at work just doing their jobs.” 

After Officer Taylor’s argument with the employee, Ms. Campos continued cleaning the store. As she was carrying boxes through the store doorway to the dumpster, Ms. Campos came face-to-face with Officer Taylor, who was charging inside. Unbeknownst to Ms. Campos, Officer Taylor was looking to arrest Ms. Campos’ coworker, with whom he had instigated the earlier argument. Frightened by the officer coming toward her, Ms. Campos momentarily froze. Officer Taylor said “step back, step back,” then grabbed Ms. Campos, forcibly shoved her, and struck her face. As Ms. Campos fell backward, Officer Taylor, his partner Officer Howard, and other CPD officers entered the store. No one checked to see if Ms. Campos had been injured.  

As Officer Taylor stomped through the store, Ms. Campos pulled out her phone and began recording him and saying that he had punched her. Although Ms. Campos had a First Amendment right to record Officer Taylor and criticize his misconduct, Officer Taylor approached her, twisted her arms—forcing her to stop recording—and placed her under arrest for purportedly obstructing a police officer. 

“There was no legal basis whatsoever to arrest Ms. Campos for ‘obstructing an officer’; this was a blatant violation of Ms. Campos’s constitutional rights,” the ACLU’s Levin explained.    

Ms. Campos was taken to a CPD station, where she was detained and physically restrained for nearly five hours. While holding Ms. Campos in custody, Officers Taylor and Howard refused to tell her when she would be released and when she would be able to see her one-year-old son again. Defendant Taylor even taunted Ms. Campos about her inability to contact her child or her child’s daycare while in custody. 

Months later, the false charge against Ms. Campos was dropped.  

“My hope is that this lawsuit will help make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said Ms. Campos. “I’m concerned that something like this could happen to me again. But I’m more afraid for when my Latino son grows up. I’m afraid for what could happen to him if we continue to have police officers like Officer Taylor patrolling this city.” 

“Not only was Ms. Campos arrested and detained when she did not do anything wrong, but the officers lied on the police reports. They fabricated information to cover up the false arrest—a widespread practice CPD officers use to conceal misconduct,” said Levin. 

“This sort of behavior by CPD officers is the antithesis of public safety and constitutional policing,” Levin added. “And the City is directly responsible because it fails to adequately train, supervise, and discipline officers like Taylor who have egregious records of misconduct.” Officer Taylor has racked up more civilian complaints than 93% of other officers. Levin explained: “This case exemplifies the City’s systemic failure to take abusive officers off the streets.” 

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If you or someone you know is in a transitory living situation and needs legal support the Law Project can be reached weekdays on its toll-free helpline:  1 (800) 940-1119.

Related Media Coverage:

Video of Police Cam footage: https://youtu.be/rCNyyBjFeoI

Tribune

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-aclu-lawsuit-chicago-police-arrest-20220526-ywksug2l75gwxg34eulugt2uoe-story.html   

Sun Times 

https://chicago.suntimes.com/2022/5/26/23143373/federal-suit-alleges-cpd-officer-struck-falsely-arrested-woman-recording-misconduct-2020

Univision Chicago

https://www.univision.com/local/chicago-wgbo/hispana-presenta-demanda-contra-policia-de-chicago-por-falso-arresto-y-agresion

Remembering grassroots leader Edrika Fulford

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of CCH grassroots leader Edrika Fulford. Edrika was an extraordinary advocate for ending homelessness as well as a cherished friend and community member.

CCH extends our love and condolences to Edrika’s family, friends, and the many people who love her.

During her time at CCH, Edrika was an active member of our Speakers Bureau, a core leader with the Bring Chicago Home campaign, and a founding member of the Mutual Aid Governance Committee. She was active with the Horizons creative writing program, both as a participant and emcee of last year’s virtual event. She was proud to have joined CCH staff as an Outreach Assistant in the Organizing Department in the weeks before her passing.

Edrika brought immense passion and resolve to all that she did as a leader and advocate, whether speaking at rallies, testifying at press conferences, officiating events, or providing interviews with the media. She will be deeply missed and forever part of CCH’s mission and legacy.

Continue reading Remembering grassroots leader Edrika Fulford

CCH advocacy leads to passage of three bills, increased funding for housing programs

By Niya K. Kelly, Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation

During this successful legislative session, CCH policy and organizing staff, alongside our grassroots leaders, worked on various initiatives to remove barriers for people experiencing homelessness.

Shared advocacy and organizing in Springfield resulted in increased funding for housing programs in the FY23 state budget as well as the passage of HB 5265, HB 4242, and HB 2775, bills that will support K-12 students, increase access to child care, and ban source of income discrimination for renters.

Continue reading CCH advocacy leads to passage of three bills, increased funding for housing programs

Climb for a cause on April 16

photo of a person on a climbing wall. Words on the image read: CCH on the Rocks, April 16, 2022. Brooklyn Boulders, Lincoln Park."

The Associate Board of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will once again host an afternoon of indoor rock climbing at the Brooklyn Boulders at the Lincoln Park location (2121 N. Clybourn). 

The event runs from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 16.  Tickets are $30 per person and can be purchased here. $20 of each ticket goes to support CCH’s mission to prevent and end homelessness.

Included with the ticket is an instructional demonstration by the venue staff and all the necessary gear for the climb. Guests are welcome to bring their own beverages to be consumed after the climb. This event happens rain or shine because it is indoors!

CCH’s Associate Board has been active since 2008, staging fundraising events to support CCH’s mission and spreading awareness of the work that CCH does.  Anyone interested in learning more about how to become involved with the efforts of the Associate Board is welcome to contact the membership co-chairs through this interest form.