LaRaza: Declaran al 18 de julio el Día de la Esperanza para los Hogares en Illinois

By Por La Raza, July 15, 2024

Organizaciones sin fines de lucro y funcionarios electos de Illinois, el Condado de Cook y la ciudad de Chicago anunciaron el establecimiento, cada 18 de julio, del Día de la Esperanza para los Hogares (Hope for Homes Day), una campaña de donación en línea organizada por La Casa Norte y diseñada para unir a la comunidad en la tarea de abordar y resolver el problema de la falta de vivienda.

Un comunicado de esta iniciativa postuló que en un momento en que otras ciudades están criminalizando la falta de vivienda, en relación a multar a las personas que duermen en la calle, “Illinois se destaca como un faro de esperanza donde organizaciones sin fines de lucro y líderes electos trabajan juntos en soluciones innovadoras”.

Hay más de 68,000 personas sin hogar tan solo en Chicago, según cifras de 2021, con un aumento de 7,985 personas viviendo en las calles o en refugios respecto al año anterior. De aquellos que experimentan la falta de vivienda, el 82% son personas de color.

“Este jueves, 18 de julio, es un día de esperanza, un día para que todos los habitantes de Illinois den un paso adelante y ayuden a resolver la falta de vivienda en nuestro estado”, dijo José Muñoz, CEO de La Casa Norte. “El Día de la Esperanza para los Hogares trata de unirnos para amplificar nuestro impacto, asegurándonos de poder seguir sirviendo y elevando a nuestra comunidad.”

AP NEWS: Chicago removing homeless encampment ahead of Democratic National Convention

By Scott Bauer July 12, 2024

CHICAGO (AP) — Homeless people who have been living in one of Chicago’s largest and most visible encampments will be relocated to a shelter by next week so the area will be emptied before the Democratic National Convention in August, a city official said Friday. 

The encampment is along Interstate 90 just southwest of the city center, an area that’s a main thoroughfare between the two sites where the Democratic convention will be held starting Aug. 19.

The encampment will be emptied and permanently roped off on Wednesday, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Brandie Knazze said Friday.

WTTW Chicago Tonight: Chicago, Illinois Advocates Hope Impact of Supreme Court’s Homelessness Ruling Muted Locally

“Just because the Supreme Court has overturned this order doesn’t mean cities should just go into a mode of being reactionary and criminalizing people for biological necessities,” she said. “Particularly in Chicago and Illinois, I think there is a recognition that criminalization is not effective. A housing first approach is effective and that seems to be the direction that people here want to move.”

Patricia Nix-Hodes, director of CCH’s The Law Project.

Chicago Tribune: In Chicago’s tent cities, ‘a multitude of challenges’ to address the city’s rising homelessness

Two women, who asked not to be named, tend to a kitten dropped off at their tent encampment at a rail underpass in the 3000 block of West Chicago Avenue on June 25, 2024, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

Robert Bulanon glanced at the sky and frowned at the rain. He hurried into his home and emerged, holding an umbrella over his head, picking his way between a barbershop pole, a pair of bus seats, a wheelbarrow, a grill where another man was cooking beef stew, and other objects scattered along the embankment of the canal.

Bulanon, 52, is one of about 20 people who live in a set of makeshift shelters along the North Shore Channel between Foster and Bryn Mawr avenues on Chicago’s Northwest Side. A ladder leaned against the chain link fence, separating the river embankment from athletic fields at Northside College Prep, a selective enrollment high school.

By July 30, the residents will no longer be able to call the longtime encampment home. The next day, city departments are scheduled to begin clearing the tents and items, officials said, offering the group non-congregate shelter placement at a downtown hotel. Notices will go up starting the first week of July. The idea of relocating them has been talked about for years.

“They said, ‘We’re here to help; we could send you somewhere, a shelter or something,’”  Bulanon recalled of his first interaction with the city.

Months after voters rejected the Bring Chicago Home referendum, which sought to raise millions for homelessness services by raising the city’s real estate transfer tax for property sales above $1 million, Chicago is at a critical juncture on how to address its rapidly growing homeless population.

The city has historically prioritized finding housing for its homeless, many of whom reside in tent cities across its parks and under bridges. But with low affordable housing stock, depleted federal and state funding and other challenges, the city’s number of homeless is outpacing what the city can provide.

CCH’s Response to the Supreme Court’s Decision to Criminalize Street Homelessness

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is deeply disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court limited the rights of people experiencing homelessness in a decision in the Johnson v. Grants Pass case.

Originating from Grants Pass, Oregon, the Supreme Court decision allows cities to penalize people for sleeping outdoors if they have even a blanket to stay warm, even when they have nowhere else to go. Lower court decisions in the case found that fining and arresting people in those circumstances was “cruel and unusual punishment” under the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Court’s decision does not recognize the reality of the lived experience of people who have no place else to go. As noted in the first sentence of Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, “Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime.”

There is a severe shortage of affordable housing in Chicago, Illinois, and throughout the country and a lack of emergency shelter to address the need. Anti-bedding ordinances, like those at issue in the case, would be particularly harmful to people experiencing homelessness in climates like Chicago and Illinois. Any such measures passed here would punish Black Chicagoans and Illinoisans, who disproportionately experience homelessness.

“Fining and penalizing people experiencing homelessness does not solve homelessness. Indeed, criminalizing homelessness only serves to exacerbate it,” said Patricia Nix-Hodes, Director of the Law Project of CCH. “The solution to homelessness is to provide permanent affordable housing.”

CCH, alongside 27 partner organizations, filed an amicus brief in the case, raising the importance of the case and the impact on people experiencing homelessness in Chicago and Illinois. Pro bono partner Much Shelist supported CCH in filing the brief, and attorneys Steven Blonder, Josh Leavitt, and Charlotte Franklin were instrumental in drafting the brief. Legal Council for Health Justice and Law Center for Better Housing also partnered on the brief.

Read the amicus brief here.

CCH joined the National Homelessness Law Center and hundreds of other organizations that submitted more than 40 amicus briefs in support of people experiencing homelessness.

Amicus brief partners: AIDS Foundation Chicago, All Chicago Making Homelessness History, BEDS Plus, Inc., Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicago Rehab Network, Chicago Urban League, Chicago Women Take Action, Covenant House Illinois, Deborah’s Place, Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project, Healthcare Alternative Systems, Inc, Heartland Alliance Health, Housing Action Illinois, Illinois Public Health Institute, Impact for Equity, James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, Law Center for Better Housing, Legal Council for Health Justice, LYTE Collective, North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic, Organized Communities Against Deportations, Red Line Service Institute, Safer Foundation, South Suburban PADS, Street Samaritans, The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence, The Night Ministry, and Thresholds.

NBC NEWS: Three times as many people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago this year as migrant numbers surged

By Daniella Silva, June 10, 2024

Nearly 19,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago in January, more than three times as many as last year, as the city struggled to manage the thousands of newly arrived migrants in its shelter system. 

An annual city survey released Friday — a snapshot of estimated homelessness in Chicago on a single night — found that 18,836 people were without permanent housing on Jan. 25, up from 6,139 the year before.

The survey numbers are based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of homelessness, which includes unhoused people and those living in shelters. 

A majority of the increase was driven by thousands of new migrants’ arriving in Chicago and needing shelter. The migrants have been facing delays in getting work permits, if they qualify for the permits at all, a critical step in obtaining housing.

While the city has “steadily continued to work to prevent and end homelessness,” this year’s count “reflects an increased need for housing and homeless services,” not only in Chicago, but also across America, said Maura McCauley, managing deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

There were 13,679 new arrivals living in Chicago’s shelters the night the survey was conducted, an increase from the 2,176 living in shelters in January 2023, according to the survey. There were also 212 migrants living completely unsheltered this year, compared with 20 last year, the survey said.

The large increase showed that the migrants and the city were “dealing with a lot of hardship” earlier this year and that the city, Cook County and the state have tried to add resources to address “this unprecedented influx,” said Doug Schenkelberg, the executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

WBEZ: Chicago’s homeless population increased threefold, a city snapshot shows, owing largely to migrants

By Tessa Weinberg, June 7, 2024

More than 18,800 Chicagoans experienced homelessness on a single night in January — a threefold increase over last year that was largely driven by 13,900 asylum-seekers who had no permanent place to stay.

The estimates released Friday come from the city’s annual snapshot of the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night. This year’s point-in-time count was conducted on Jan. 25 — shortly after the city saw its peak of the number of migrants it sheltered. During the count, 13,679 asylum-seekers were living in shelters, with 212 unsheltered.

Outside of the population of asylum-seekers, the number of people who were in city shelters or staying on the street saw an uptick to 4,945 — a 25% increase from the 3,943 “non-new arrivals” who were sheltered and unsheltered last year.

Of that demographic, Black Chicagoans experienced higher rates of homelessness, with 72% identifying as Black, compared to Black residents making up roughly a third of the city’s population.

Overall, 18,836 people were experiencing homelessness compared to 6,139 during last year’s count. Around 30% were children under 18.

The figures underscore why the city has tried to build capacity to resettle the more than 43,000 migrants that have arrived to Chicago while also working on strategies to end homelessness, said Maura McCauley, managing deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

“Those things have been happening together,” McCauley said. “One didn’t stop in order to serve another population.”

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which mandates the counts, defines a person experiencing homelessness as someone who “lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” The counts capture a static picture, but it’s among the ways to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness. When accounting for those living “doubled up” temporarily with others, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimated there were 68,440 people unhoused in Chicago in 2021, for example, compared to just 4,477 reported during that year’s point-in-time count.

WTTW: Number of Unhoused Chicagoans Tripled Amid Surge of Migrants, Survey Found

By Heather Cherone, June 7, 2024

The number of Chicagoans living in city shelters or on city streets tripled between January 2023 and January 2024, according to the annual survey used by federal officials to track homelessness, city officials announced Friday.

More than 18,800 people in Chicago lacked a permanent place to sleep, according to the annual “point-in-time” count, which sends volunteers out to count the number of unsheltered people on the city’s streets on a single night and is used by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials to determine federal funding levels. The 2024 count took place on Jan. 25.

That is an increase of more than 200% in the past year, driven largely by the arrival of 35,000 migrants from the southern border, all of whom are in the country legally after requesting asylum. Children account for one-third of Chicago’s unhoused population, according to the survey. 

Read the full survey results.

“We aren’t rising to the occasion,” said Doug Schenkelberg, the executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

The results of the point-in-time survey are “disheartening but not surprising,” Schenkelberg said.

“It is clear that the problem is continuing to grow,” Schenkelberg said.

Chicago Defender: Legacy of Inequitable Housing Access–How a Black Family’s Story Echoes Today’s Fight

A Chicago Defender article from 1946 that chronicles the Hemmons family becoming unhoused.

By Tacuma Roeback, Chicago Defender Managing Editor

Thanks to the efforts of Carl Hansberry and later the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, and Al Raby-led Chicago Freedom Movement, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was ratified, and restrictive covenants were outlawed.  What Chicago’s unhoused population and those on the verge of losing their homes face today is similar to what the Hemmons family endured back in 1946. But politics and entrenched segregation by race and class do the work restrictive covenants once did.

Moreover, organizations that advocate for the homeless and affordable housing argue that Chicago residents recently had an opportunity to vote for a transfer tax known as Bring Chicago Home that would’ve helped to change the fortunes of thousands of unhoused persons and those on the verge of losing their homes. 

Instead, the March 19 ballot measure was soundly defeated. 

With that setback, a familiar theme prevailed, one that governed the lives of families like the Hemmons and thousands of others, especially those who were Black and poor. 

“The powers that be have always pushed back on efforts to make access to housing more just because it undermines their profits and their power,” said Douglas Schenkelberg, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “And so the loss of the referendum question (Bring Chicago Home) is yet another example of the status quo working to maintain the status quo.”

Bring Chicago Home sought to help two groups: people already unhoused and in need of shelter and those on the verge of losing their homes. 

According to proponents, BCH would have incrementally raised the city’s real estate transfer tax on properties valued at more than $1 million. The transfer tax would have generated $100 million yearly for mental health services, job training and educational opportunities for the unhoused. Schenkelberg said BCH monies would have funded two large-scale solutions that would effectively address homelessness in the city.  

For Schenkelberg and many who work on behalf of the unhoused in Chicago, the great dilemma is knowing that programs that can effectively address homelessness exist but that there isn’t a sustainable funding stream to address large-scale homelessness in the city.  

“Are we investing funding at scale in these proven solutions that we can have a measurable impact on the problem?” Schenkelberg said. 

As for the business and real estate interests that opposed BCH, Schenkelberg poses this challenge: 

“You’ve said multiple times throughout the campaign and after election day that you think addressing homelessness is a very important issue, that it’s something we have to tackle in the city of Chicago,” he said. 

“So how are you going to step up in a way that’s meaningful and has a measurable impact on the 68,000 people experiencing homelessness in Chicago? How will you show up differently than you’ve shown up before Bring Chicago Home?” 

This time around, the fight still centers around BCH, which supporters contend is not dead. 

They vow not to give up.

They believe they have a measure that could disrupt a persistent narrative and resolve a problem that has impacted Black people the most. 

“There were 68,000 people experiencing homelessness before Election Day, and there are 68,000 people experiencing homelessness after it, so one election doesn’t change our course over the long term,” said Schenkelberg. 

“The work goes on, and we only honor the people who have fought for this for years by continuing to do the work.”