Student Homelessness, Family Law and Public Benefits for Immigrant families during and Post Pandemic MCLE

September 26th, 2023 12-1 p.m.

The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will be hosting a FREE virtual legal rights Training on September 26, 2023, from 12-1 p.m. We will be discussing student homelessness, family law, and public benefits for immigrant families: during and post the pandemic.

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Cheers! For Systemic Change

11 years ago, the Associate Board of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless was trying to brainstorm a name for their newest fundraising event, a guest bartending night.  “The prevailing joke was, we needed to come up with a better name than my first suggestion: Carousing for Housing,” remembers current Board Secretary, Shane Hopkin.  Eventually, the name Cheers for Change was suggested.  “We were celebrating systemic change, not your spare coins,” explains CCH’s Director of Development, Michael Nameche.  

The first Cheers For Change event was held at smartbar in April 2012 and featured a DJ set by Chicago DJs Intel & Maker as well as a drag performance by Silky Jumbo.  But the real stars were the 17 people that agreed to campaign for a month ahead of the night to collect virtual “tips” aka donations to CCH for the privilege of playing at being a bartender for one hour.  That first event raised over $16,000 and as Michael Nameche is fond of saying, “Success demands a repeat!”  To spur on the volunteer fundraising efforts, the Bartender Hall of Fame was created to encourage participants to raise $1,000 or more.  

Over 90 other supporters have since taken on the role of guest bartender, raising a cumulative $175,000 at establishments like The Owl, aliveOne and Woodie’s Flat until the pandemic put in-person events on pause.  But last month marked the triumphant return of Cheers For Change at a new location, Central Park Bar in Logan Square. 

On July 13, eight CCH supporters spent an evening in Central Park Bar’s beautiful and spacious beer garden taking drink orders from their friends and family, eventually raising $8,000 to support the work of CCH.  Although Central Park Bar was a new venue, we felt right at home thanks to the team supporting the effort: Four Entertainment Group embraced CCH and this fundraiser over a decade ago and has welcomed us at their other establishments like The Owl and aliveOne time and time again. 4EG says they “enhance neighborhoods” but we also feel like they improve communities with their partnerships. 

Here are a few moments from the evening that helped us restart our favorite fundraiser: 

Nikki DelZenero considers herself “an excellent listener and conversationalist,” so it is no surprise that she entered the CCH Bartender Hall of Fame before the event even began. 

Callie Gilsenan is definitely excited to follow in her older brother Patrick’s footsteps as a Cheers for Change Bartender. 

Ralph Tobias captivates his audience as they wait for their beverages.  Is he telling a joke?  A story?  Or ruminating on a mystery of life?  If you want to be a bartender, you have to be able to do all three. 

Conrad Weres is such a cocktail maestro that he performed in our 2022 Virtual Variety show as well.  This makes it the SECOND time he has utilized his mixology talents to support CCH and we could not be more grateful! 

Community Care During Crisis: CCH Mutual Aid Fund Impact Report

At the onset of the COVID–19 pandemic, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless launched the Edrika Fulford Mutual Aid Fund and has distributed more than $450,000 in emergency cash to over 900 households facing homelessness.

In collaboration with the Mutual Aid Fund Governance Committee and researchers at the Inclusive Economy Lab of University of Chicago, the Community Care During Crisis: Mutual Aid Fund Impact Report webinar was hosted on Thursday, March 9 at 4:00 p.m. Learn more about the Mutual Aid Fund model and how the program has been working to meet survival needs and build coalition by watching the recording and reviewing the presentation below.

Watch the recording here.

Help us continue to provide emergency care to households facing homelessness.

Victory Celebration Recap 2022

We thank all the attendees and recipients who joined us on December 8th for our Annual Victory Celebration. To commemorate this event we have put together a photo gallery to share with family and friends the successes and joy we have built together this year.

This year’s winners were:

  • Honorable State Representative Will Guzzardi for his legislative advocacy supporting people experiencing homelessness in Illinois
  • Honorable State Representative Lakesia Collins for her legislative advocacy supporting the expansion of early learning opportunities for families in care
  • Start Early- Illinois Policy Team for their advocacy in expanding early learning and supportive services for families and their children
  • Commissioner Marisa Novara and Commissioner Brandie Knazze for their leadership in providing housing for households living doubled-up
  • Deb Dempsey, Kane County, Regional Office of Education, for her advocacy on behalf of students experiencing homelessness
  • Bob Palmer, of Housing Action Illinois, Les Brown Award for Excellence in Public Policy
  • Research Advisory Board Members Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center in recognition of the creation and development of  the TANF Research Project

As we end 2022 Victory Celebration and enter 2023 we look forward to our collaboration with the community working to ensure housing is accessible to everyone. Addressing homelessness has many layers and together we will continue to be tenacious to make housing a human right. 

Victory Celebration

Thursday, December 8th 2022, 3-5 PM

Grace Place 637 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60605

As we look back on the previous year, we want to take time to celebrate our victories and honor those who made them possible. Please use the form below to RSVP to this years event:

Victory Celebration RSVP 2022

Chicago Reader: Charities drowning in city water fees

By Ben Joravsky

Diana Faust at Franciscan Outreach homeless shelter.(Alison Green)
Diana Faust at Franciscan Outreach homeless shelter.
(Alison Green)

For the last 50 years, Franciscan Outreach has been running a west-side shelter that offers homeless men and women showers, food, and a place to rest. The shelter’s 260 beds are filled pretty much every night.

Unfortunately, Mayor Emanuel seems determined to put the shelter out of business.

Nothing personal, of course. In fact, the Franciscans are just one of many charities that have been struggling to balance their books since last year, when the mayor ended the city’s longtime policy of exempting nonprofits from water fees.

In this case, the Franciscans’ latest water bill is forcing them to consider laying off staff and cutting programs, if they don’t have to close their doors altogether.

“We’re looking at a $150,000 bill,” says Diana Faust, executive director of Franciscan Outreach. “That will kill us. We don’t have that kind of money.”

Welcome, my friends, to the latest political scuffle of Mayor Emanuel’s reign. Trust me, this is going to reverberate awhile.

As if the mayor doesn’t have enough to worry about, having inflamed teachers, parents, and students with the threat of closing a quarter of the city’s grammar schools. Yet in the name of collecting what’s estimated to be a few million bucks a year, the mayor is sticking it to the poor.

“This impacts everybody,” says elder Kevin Ford, director of Saint Paul Church of God in Christ, on the south side. “We’re talking shelters, domestic violence clinics, day care, after-school programs—everybody.”

At issue is the water bill exemption that Mayor Daley and the City Council routinely handed out to nonprofits for as long as anyone can remember.

As a candidate, Emanuel—looking for ways to distinguish himself from Daley—pledged to get rid of the exemption on the grounds that the city couldn’t afford it. He made good on that promise in his first budget, which was unanimously adopted by aldermen in November 2011.

The mayor claimed getting rid of the exemption would bring in about $20 million a year.

Furthermore, he said, he was protecting most nonprofits by phasing in the water bills. In 2012, for instance, they would pay only 40 percent of their bill. This year it’s 60 percent. Starting next year it’ll be 80 percent.

There was no debate, no discussion, no attempt to ask—much less answer—how much would actually be saved if places like shelters closed as a result of the bills.

“We subsidize the city with our programs,” says Ford. “If we don’t operate a food pantry or a shelter, who will?”

Good question. As Ford points out, it’s one thing to eliminate the exemption for the “big boys”—major institutions like Northwestern University or the University of Chicago. It’s something else to go after the Outreach. So we don’t know how much of that $20 million—if that number is even accurate—comes from whom.

Furthermore, many shelters and social service agencies get operational money from the city. So if the city jacks up the water bills, the shelters will effectively be taking from the city to pay the city.

And if they go out of business, the city will suddenly find itself having to spend more to serve the poor.

Unless Mayor Emanuel decides to get Chicago out of the business of serving the poor, much as he’s getting out of the business of educating them.

Sorry, Mr. Mayor—that was too easy. So please show me I’m wrong.

In any event, you’d think these are precisely the kinds of questions an enlightened City Council would want answered before doing something rash, like voting unanimously in favor of whatever half-baked idea pops out of the mayor’s mind.

You know, it reminds me of the parking meter deal. Only in that case, our aldermen mindlessly sold off a valuable asset for much less than it was worth in order to benefit a consortium of really rich people.

And in this instance, they mindlessly decided to shake some change loose from the little guys.

On both occasions, as on so many others, they simply did what they were told. Or, as Elder Ford puts it: “They eliminated the water fee exemption faster than Mayor Daley closed Meigs Field.”

Over the last few months, the nonprofits have started to counterattack. In December they got their chief council ally—Second Ward alderman Robert Fioretti—to introduce an amendment that would restore the exemption for nonprofits that provide “charitable, moral, health, education, safety or similar social services to the community.”

In addition, the proposed amendment “shall not apply to any nonprofit organization that had net assets or fund balances of $250 million.”

So far Fioretti has rounded up 28 other aldermen to sign on. That means it has three more supporters than it needs to pass.

If only City Council math were so easy.

The matter’s been sent to the budget committee, which is chaired by Alderman Carrie Austin, one of the mayor’s most dependable supporters.

Austin did not return calls for comment. But she’s told backers of the amendment that she has no intention of giving it a hearing or vote any time soon.

There are a couple ways to get the legislation out of the budget committee over Austin’s opposition. The fastest is to convince Mayor Emanuel to order Austin to hold a hearing.

That doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. At a recent fund-raiser for Misericordia, a residential center for disabled adults and children, the mayor made light of the matter. He brought a bottle of water, which he gave to Sister Rosemary Connelly, Misericordia’s executive director and one of the most vocal critics of the exemption change.

The mayor’s press people aren’t talking about the issue now. But the mayor has publicly stated that he thinks the nonprofits—especially well-connected ones like Misericordia—are more than capable of holding fund-raisers to cover the cost of their water bills.

So unless the mayor has a change of heart, the charities will have to try the second way of moving the legislation: rounding up 26 aldermen to vote the amendment out of committee over the mayor’s objection.

Which will be about as easy as, oh, squeezing water from a stone, and then paying higher fees on it.

As Fioretti points out, you have to assume that some of the supporters will back off once the mayor applies pressure. So he and his allies are looking for a few additional backers.

Among the aldermen who haven’t publicly backed the amendment are: Will Burns (Fourth), Anthony Beale (Ninth), George Cardenas (12th), Marty Quinn (13th), Matthew O’Shea (19th), Danny Solis (25th), Ray Suarez (31st), Richard Mell (33rd), Rey Colon (35th), Timothy Cullerton (38th), Margaret Laurino (39th), Pat O’Connor (40th), Mary O’Connor (41st), Michele Smith (43rd), Harry Osterman (48th), and Debra Silverstein (50th). To name a few.

A word of warning, aldermen: expect a few calls from imams, rabbis, priests, and ministers, along with a variety of nonprofit operators in your ward.

“This campaign’s just heating up,” says Ford.

Two-Day Community Organizing Training

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Two – Day Community Organizing Training

Wednesday, Oct. 10 & Thursday, Oct. 11
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.


Facing Forward
642 N. Kedzie Ave.
Chicago, IL

Sessions Include:
History & Principles of Community Organizing
Building Relationships
Running Effective Meetings
Cutting an Issue
Actions and the Media
The world as it is vs. how it should be
Power and Power Analysis

Contact Jim Field with questions or to RSVP at or 312-641-4140.

Space is limited.