WBEZ, Curious City: To help homeless kids in Chicago, first you have to find them


Link to the 8-minute report

Streeterville resident Dorothy Lam says she’s seen homeless children cuddled up in their parents laps in the doorways of downtown Chicago more than once. But she didn’t think about the total number of homeless kids in the city until she was expecting a child of her own.

So she came to Curious City with a question:

How many homeless kids are there in Chicago, and what can I do to help?

Turns out, that depends on who you ask. Estimates range dramatically, from 1,215 to 20,779. And the number of runaways or kids without a guardian ranges from 6,745 to just seven.

It’s easy to quickly get lost in these numbers, but they have a real human impact. That’s because estimates of Chicago’s homeless population dictate federal funding, and low numbers mean fewer shelter beds, food and social workers available to help these kids survive.

Hard to Find

To get a community the funding it needs to fight homelessness, federal agencies have to know how large is the homeless population. So the first step in fighting homelessness is counting the homeless.

Here’s the problem: Most children facing homelessness — about 81 percent, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless — are living in homes. They’re just not in their homes. They’re called “doubled-up,” meaning they’re staying with friends and relatives, typically until welcomes are worn out. Although the federal definition of homelessness has included this perpetually couch-surfing population since 2001, they often don’t make it into the official federal tally simply because they are more difficult to find.

In an attempt to estimate the homeless population in any given city, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires what’s called a point-in-time count. Every year, every shelter must turn over the tally of people who slept in shelter beds on a given night in late January. And every other year, communities must also send out volunteers to try and count every person sleeping on the streets on that same night (although Chicago and many other communities choose to do that in-person count yearly).

In 2018, the shelters and volunteers counted 5,450 homeless people in Chicago, 1,215 of whom were children.

But the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless believes that figure is a significant undercount. Through a combination of estimates and Census data, they believe there to be 86,324 homeless people — 20,799 of whom are kids — in Chicago. That’s more than 17 times the size of the point-in-time tally for the under-18 age group.

According to the coalition, about a third of all homeless kids are unaccompanied minors…

LINK to read/listen to the rest of the WBEZ report.

July/August media reports: Panhandling bans unconstitutional, ‘the working homeless,’ HRDI tenants to be displaced, employed and educated people are homeless, too

August 27, 2019

The Southern Illinoisan: Carbondale City Council votes to eliminate panhandling prohibition

By Isaac Smith

CARBONDALE — After receiving a letter a year ago from the American Civil Liberties Union, the City of Carbondale has decided to repeal its panhandling ordinance.

Last year, the ACLU co-signed a letter with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless condemning the city’s ordinance against panhandling, and threatened legal action if it was not repealed. The ACLU sent a follow-up letter to the city last month.

When asked for comment on the decision to repeal the ordinance, Diane O’Connell, a community lawyer for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, reiterated the legal reasons for the letter.

“Carbondale is the eleventh city in Illinois to have repealed its panhandling ordinance in the past year. The US Constitution guarantees that everyone has the right to ask for help, and these ordinances violated that mandate,” she wrote in an email Tuesday.

Link to the full report

August 25, 2019

WGN Radio: Panhandlers have constitutional rights too

Panhandling is a right to free speech and is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the United States and Illinois Constitutions. Diane O’Connell, a lawyer with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless joins WGN Radio’s Karen Conti to discuss the recent lawsuit against the Village of Downer’s Grove regarding their panhandling laws along with what is and is not constitutional when it comes to panhandling.

Link to the radio interview

August 21, 2019

The New Republic: The New American Homeless

Housing insecurity in the nation’s richest cities is far worse than government statistics claim. Just ask the Goodmans.

By Brian Goldstone

Last August, Cokethia Goodman returned home from work to discover a typed letter from her landlord in the mailbox. She felt a familiar panic as she began to read it. For nearly a year, Goodman and her six children—two of them adopted after being abandoned at birth—had been living in a derelict but functional three-bedroom house in the historically black Peoplestown neighborhood of Atlanta. Goodman, who is 50, has a reserved, vigilant demeanor, her years trying to keep the kids out of harm’s way evident in her perpetually narrowed eyes. She saw the rental property as an answer to prayer. It was in a relatively safe area and within walking distance of the Barack and Michelle Obama Academy, the public elementary school her youngest son and daughter attended. It was also—at $950 a month, not including utilities—just barely affordable on the $9 hourly wage she earned as a full-time home health aide. Goodman had fled an abusive marriage in 2015, and she was anxious to give her family a more stable home environment. She thought they’d finally found one.

…Goodman’s predicament is increasingly common as the ranks of the working homeless multiply. The present support system, according to advocacy groups, effectively ignores scores of homeless families—excluding them from public discourse and locking them out of crucial support. This is due, in large part, to the way that HUD tallies and defines homelessness. Every January, in roughly 400 communities across the country, a battalion of volunteers, service providers, and government employees sets out to conduct the annual homeless census, referred to as the Point-in-Time count. Usually undertaken late at night and into the early morning, the HUD-overseen census is meant to provide a comprehensive snapshot of homelessness in America: its hot spots and demographics, its causes and magnitude. Last year, on the basis of this data, HUD reported a 23 percent decline in the number of families with children experiencing homelessness since 2007. The only problem, according to critics, is that HUD’s definition of “homeless,” and thus the scope of its Point-in-Time count, is severely limited, restricted to people living in shelters or on the streets. Everyone else—those crammed into apartments with others, or living in cars or hotels—is rendered doubly invisible: at once hidden from sight and disregarded by the official reporting metrics.

Julie Dworkin, the director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, has called attention to the profound consequences of this neglect. Not only are families denied housing assistance from HUD and its local partners, but, as the federal agency’s figures make their way into the media, the true scale and nature of the crisis is also obscured. In 2016, Dworkin and her colleagues began conducting their own survey of Chicago’s homeless population, expanding it beyond the HUD census to include families doubled up with others. Their total was twelve times that of the Point-in-Time count: 82,212 versus 6,786. “The idea that these families aren’t ‘actually’ homeless because they’re not in shelters is absurd,” Dworkin told me. “Oftentimes the shelters are full, or there simply are no family shelters—in which case, all these people are essentially abandoned by the system.” She noted the myth that families with children living in doubled-up arrangements are somehow less vulnerable than those in shelters, when these conditions can be just as detrimental to a child’s education, mental and physical health, and long-term development…

Link to the full article

August 21, 2019

WBBM Newsradio: Downers Grove sued over panhandling ordinance

By Craig Dellimore

Advocates for the homeless and free speech are suing the Village of Downers Grove and say the local government is unconstitutionally restricting homeless people from asking for help at intersections.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the American Civil Liberties Union are representing two men whom they say have been ticketed and prosecuted for asking for money at Butterfield and Finley Roads.

Link to the full radio report

August 21, 2019

Daily Herald: ACLU sues Downers Grove, says panhandling prohibition is unconstitutional

By Susan Sarkauskas

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Law Project for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless are suing Downers Grove, saying the village’s law against panhandling at intersections is unconstitutional.

The two plaintiffs — both men — have the free-speech right to ask for help, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in federal court. The men do so by holding up cardboard signs, often standing on medians at the busy intersection of Butterfield and Finley roads, according to the lawsuit.

Link to the full report

August 2, 2019

Chicago Sun-Times: Former homeless in Chicago now facing the prospect of losing their apartments

By Mark Brown, columnist

On the surface, it sounds like a good idea: Evaluate all agencies every year that provide services to the homeless, then steer limited federal dollars to those with the best track record of helping people.

But what happens to the people served by a program that gets thrown by the wayside when its funding is directed elsewhere?

For 43 individuals who for many years have received housing under a program operated by Chicago’s Human Resources Development Institute Inc., that seemingly good idea has turned their lives upside-down.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the Chicago social services agency that it no longer would get funding for a program to provide apartments and supportive services to those 43 clients because other agencies had higher performance ratings.

As a result, most of those served by the program are faced, at best, with being displaced from their apartments — and potentially with the loss of any housing support.

We’re talking about people who previously were homeless. Many have disabilities. Some have children. That’s why they were accepted into the program in the first place.

Their problems haven’t disappeared. But, as of the end of June, the federal government’s commitment to house them has.

Link to the full report

July 7, 2019

NBC5: 13,000 of Chicago’s homeless had jobs

Around 18,000 of Chicago’s homeless had a college education in 2017 and more than 13,000 had jobs, according to a study that challenges stereotypes about homelessness.

The report, published Tuesday by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, examined census data from that year. It shows around 86,000 people experienced homelessness in Chicago at some point during that year, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Chicago’s homeless population is substantially larger than indicated by the point-in-time tally that the city conducts annually, because the count doesn’t include people who are “doubled up,” or residing in the homes of others, according to the group that says it advocates to prevent and end homelessness.

“Now we have a way to talk about the full scope of homelessness in Chicago,” said Julie Dworkin, the coalition’s policy director. “The point-in-time count doesn’t capture the way most people experience homelessness. Being able to quantify that has really pushed the envelope in Chicago in terms of the city thinking about what resources are necessary to address it.”

Link to the full report

July 3, 2019

New study shows many of Chicago’s homeless have jobs, some college education

By Stephanie Kim

More than 86,000 people in Chicago experience homelessness. And yet, thousands of them have a job or have received some college education.

That’s according to a new study released on Tuesday by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit targets the lack of affordable housing in metropolitan Chicago and across Illinois.

Morning Shift checks in with the coalition for more on their new report and their work around combating homelessness in the city.

GUEST: Julie Dworkin, policy director at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless & Edrika Fulford, a volunteer leader for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Link to the radio interview

July 2, 2019

Chicago Tribune: Thousands of Chicago’s homeless have jobs, some education, contrary to stereotypes, new study says

By Peter Nickeas

A report to be released Tuesday by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimates that 18,000 homeless people in the city have completed some college and another 13,400 have some form of employment.

Rauquaia Hale-Wallace, 49, of Chicago, is one of them. She’s trained as an opera singer and her husband has a job in the transportation industry, but the couple has experienced homelessness…

Hale-Wallace is among about 86,000 people who experienced homelessness in Chicago, according to the coalition’s study, which analyzed 2017 census data. Chicago’s homeless population, according to advocates, is significantly higher than the point-in-time count the city conducts every January because that tally doesn’t include people who are “doubled up,” or staying, in the homes of other people. According to the coalition’s analysis, about 22,500 people were served by shelters in 2017 and 6,300 of them had been doubled-up at some point that year.

The last point-in-time count for which results are available, from January 2018, showed more than 5,000 people living in shelters or in places not suited for human habitation. According to the coalition, 4 out of 5 homeless people fall into the “doubled up” category, defined by the coalition as “taking shelter in another household due to a loss of their own housing.”

“Now we have a way to talk about the full scope of homelessness in Chicago,” said Julie Dworkin, policy director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “The point-in-time count doesn’t … capture the way most people experience homelessness. Being able to quantify that has really pushed the envelope in Chicago in terms of the city thinking about what resources are necessary to address it. If you’re only thinking about 5,000 people, you’re thinking about a very different amount of money than if you have 80,000 people.”

The coalition supports an increase in the real estate transfer tax to help people like Hale-Wallace, who the group made available to the Tribune for an interview. The tax could raise up to $200 million to spend on programs to combat homelessness, Dworkin said.

Link to the full report

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

The falling out between the new mayor and the Bring Chicago Home coalition that once regarded her as an important ally comes as Lightfoot prepares for an Aug. 29 bad news budget presentation that is bound to leave additional constituencies disenchanted.

By Mark Brown

The honeymoon is coming to a rocky end for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

On Tuesday, leaders of a campaign to use a Chicago real estate transfer tax increase to fund an aggressive effort to reduce homelessness slammed the new mayor for abandoning their cause now that she’s eyeing the same revenue source to help balance her first budget.

“We’re deeply disappointed that Mayor Lightfoot broke her campaign promise to support the Bring Chicago Home proposal. In addition, she did so without making any attempt first to collaborate with the community,” said Julie Dworkin, policy director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, accusing the mayor of “business-as-usual” politics.

The falling out between the new mayor and the Bring Chicago Home coalition that once regarded her as an important ally comes as Lightfoot prepares for an August 29 bad news budget presentation that is bound to leave additional constituencies disenchanted.

During the mayoral campaign, Lightfoot burnished her progressive credentials by repeatedly promising support for a plan patterned after the one advanced by Bring Chicago Home — using funds from a tax on the sale of high-end real estate to support construction of affordable housing and expand homeless services. Her housing transition team listed it as a priority.

Since the election, however, Lightfoot has given the group conflicting signals, encouraging them to continue their efforts to seek a binding referendum while warning that the city’s fiscal problems were worse than former Mayor Rahm Emanuel had made known.

Any hope the mayor still intended to keep her promise vanished after an interview last week with city Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara by Sun-Times’ City Hall reporter Fran Spielman in which Novara began laying the groundwork for the boss’ reversal.

The Sun-Times reported Lightfoot now is planning to ask the General Assembly to authorize the city to raise the transfer tax on $1 million-plus properties — without going through a referendum. But she wants to use the anticipated $120 million revenue to help close the $1 billion budget hole created in large part by scheduled contributions due the city’s underfunded pension plans…

Link to the full report

Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, Sanctuary: Interview with Doug Schenkelberg

In the August edition of Sanctuary, Nisan Chavkin, Executive Director of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, talks with the Executive Director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Doug Schenkelberg, about the people who experience homelessness and how we can address this dire situation in our community. Also featured is the annual Interfaith Memorial Observance for Indigent Persons.

Crain’s Chicago Business, Doug Schenkelberg: Chicago, let’s be a leader on solving homelessness

By Doug Schenkelberg, CCH Executive Director

On any given day, you can walk through the Loop or under viaducts throughout our city and see people struggling with homelessness. However upsetting it is to witness their suffering, it is more heartbreaking to know that these people reflect the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chicago’s homelessness problem.

More than 86,000 people experienced homelessness in Chicago in 2017, according to the most recent census data. And nearly 80 percent are hidden from public view because their homelessness is experienced by staying doubled-up (if not tripled or quadrupled) with friends, family or strangers.

Too little affordable housing, insufficient living-wage work, physical and mental health ailments, and struggles with substance use are some of the reasons people face housing instability. Few realize that 1 in 5 Chicago adults who are homeless are employed. And 1 in 4 have some level of college education. More than 20,000 Chicago children strive to stay in school while couch-hopping night to night.

Moreover, homelessness has a disparate impact on people of color, with 4 out of 5 people experiencing homelessness being black or brown.

The reasons people become homeless are complex, but the solution is straightforward — permanent housing with supportive services. It is a proven model that brings people out of homelessness and keeps them out.

Crain’s – Mark Grapengater/Flickr

But inadequate resources and a historic lack of political will to secure sufficient resources keep us from moving forward. Chicago ranks near the bottom in both total and per capita spending on homelessness when compared to our peer cities. Moreover, the federal funding that Chicago receives to stem homelessness cannot be used to help the largest share of people who are homeless in our city—those who live doubled-up.

What Chicago needs is dedicated funding at a scale that can have a measurable impact on reducing homelessness. Fortunately, there is an ordinance pending in the City Council that would do just that. Backed by the Bring Chicago Home coalition of over 80 community advocates and civic groups, this measure would dramatically increase funding to combat homelessness through an increase in the city’s one-time real estate transfer tax applied exclusively to properties sold for more than $1 million.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot should fully embrace this progressive revenue increase, both because she included this proposal in her platform as a candidate and because a poll conducted for my organization showed that two-thirds of likely Chicago voters say they would support a referendum authorizing it.

Too often the refrain is, “We know homelessness is a problem, but we will get to it after dealing with these other issues.” Continually deferring solutions to homelessness only lets the problem fester. Mayor Lightfoot can take a different path. Make Chicago the shining example of how a major city tackles homelessness. The time is now.

Also in the Crain’s series on Homelessness

Christine Achre, Primo Center for Women and Children: Homeless children should remain front-and-center in fight to end homelessness

Janet L. Smith, Vorhees Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago: When it comes to homelessness, prevention is the best policy

Chicago Tribune, Mary Schmich – ‘My family is my heart’: How Tavarion Foster made his way from homelessness to college

By Mary Schmich

On a Thursday night in late June, Tavarion Laquon Foster put on his best clothes — khaki pants, black loafers, black shirt buttoned almost to the top — and went downtown to celebrate his college scholarship from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Growing up, Tavarion hadn’t thought of himself as homeless. He was 6 years old when he began going to sleep at night without a bed to call his own, but in his mind, moving from home to home, and bed to bed, was just life.

That evening at the scholarship ceremony he sat in the front row, leaning forward to listen to the other winners. It felt good to be with people whose lives weren’t so different from his.

There was a young woman who’d lived in shelters and in homes without hot water. There was a young man who had to switch schools every time he switched houses. One student had moved from Louisiana to her aunt’s home in Evanston only to have the family evicted.

When Tavarion’s moment at the lectern came, he stepped forward and began with thank you’s to the coalition, to his mentor and to the woman snapping photos from one of the guest seats.

Tavarion Foster, 18, with his mother, Shaunte Teague. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

“My beautiful mother,” he told the crowd, without explaining how extraordinary it was that the two of them were in this room, and for this purpose, together.

Chicago Sun-Times, Marlen Garcia: Money shouldn’t decide whether a kid can walk across a graduation stage

It isolates kids from their classmates. It shames them.

By Marlen Garcia, columnist

Geneva Baggett’s family had a milestone event to look forward to this spring.

Her daughter and a niece that Baggett is raising are 8th graders who will graduate next month from McKay School on the Southwest Side.


The family’s excitement soon turned to dread. Baggett owed $300 for each child to cover graduation fees. She found out about it weeks ago when the children’s teacher sent home a flyer outlining the fees along with a handwritten note to “verify that these graduation fees” were owed.

The teacher should have included another important piece of information: By law, public school fees, including the costs of graduation ceremonies, must be waived for families who are homeless. Additionally, fees must be waived for kids who are eligible for the federal free lunch and breakfast program. Many school districts, including Chicago Public Schools, waive fees for students who pay reduced prices for lunch and others who live in poverty.

Too many teachers and school administrators across Illinois don’t know about these rules or ignore them. They lead parents to believe that their children won’t be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies if they don’t pay the fees.

Baggett has hit hard times and her family is homeless. She was under the impression that her daughter and niece couldn’t participate in graduation if she didn’t pay the fees. Eventually, she sought assistance from the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, which assisted her in getting a fee waiver from the school.

But she still isn’t feeling any sense of relief. The school has asked for more money to cover a graduation trip and luncheon.

“I don’t understand,” she says.

During graduation season, too many families believe they have to decide between covering their rent or paying school fees so their children can be part of graduation ceremonies. But it is against the law to punish a child in any way over unpaid fees if the family can’t afford them. And make no mistake, barring a child from graduation, prom or a Great America trip over unpaid fees is punishment.

It isolates kids from their classmates. It shames them.

Another parent I spoke with, a single mom, said a staff member at Hyde Park Academy High School told her that her son could not participate in that school’s graduation unless she paid fees he had accumulated over four years at the school. She had a bill for $848.

The mom, who asked that her name be withheld, said that after she lost her job she couldn’t keep up with the school’s fees. She said she asked a school administrator if she could get financial assistance but the administrator said no. I reached out to the school’s principal, Antonio Ross, but he didn’t return my call or email.

The woman turned to Google for help and came across the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The organization’s law department specializes in advocating for homeless students and others who live in poverty. A lawyer sent a letter explaining the parent’s situation, and the matter was quickly resolved.

“Schools are usually responsive once they get a letter,” the lawyer, Alyssa Phillips, told me.

Ninety-six percent of the students at Hyde Park come from low-income families, according to Chicago Public Schools. I’m guessing many of those students qualify to have their fees waived. Many families probably don’t know it.

Hyde Park charges students annual fees of $200 for books, lab fees, computer software and other supplies. Families also pay $15 for each school uniform shirt, $20 for a gym uniform and $40 for a cell phone locker. Public school can be pretty expensive. It’s easy to see how a family of modest means could have trouble keeping up.

Each year around this time, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless fields dozens of calls from parents who are broke and worried their children will be barred from graduation over unpaid fees.

Patricia Nix-Hodes, director of the coalition’s Law Project, told me there are several schools that have had multiple cases of kids needing assistance for fee waivers in the last two years, including Hyde Park Academy, Kenwood High School, South Shore International High School, Morgan Park High School and Wells High School. The organization also handles cases from students at suburban schools.

Kenwood’s information sheet for Class of 2019 events says, “All existing school fees must be paid before any payments for senior activities will be accepted.” There’s no mention of waivers.

Here’s a reminder to every school: If you’re going to hit parents with invoices or price lists, whether it’s at the start of the school year or before graduation, include a note telling them that if they can’t afford the fees, they should seek a waiver.

Then follow through and help them out.

Marlen Garcia writes a weekly column and is a member of the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

Chicago Sun-Times: Huge milestone for ex-offenders to access affordable, public housing

Editor’s Note:

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis published this letter to the editor in the Chicago Sun-Times to commend the reentry housing pilot advocated by our CCH Reentry Project. The pilots were implemented through 2017 at both the CHA and the Housing Authority of Cook County.

I want to commend the Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, which voted recently to permit residents with a criminal conviction on their record an opportunity to access public housing.

It has been a 20-plus year struggle to get to this important milestone.

HUD adopted the “One Strike and You’re Out” Rule in 1996, effectively banning people with criminal records from public housing.

In 2011, then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan sent a letter to all public housing authorities in the U.S., asking them to rethink their admissions criteria and to join HUD in “welcoming these deserving citizens back into our communities.”

In 2014, the CHA Board of Commissioners engaged with a coalition of anti-homelessness advocates, re-entry service providers, and CHA tenants and staff, with support from the mayor’s office to create what become known as the  CHA Reentry Pilot.

Over the past decades we have chipped and whittled away at public housing and affordable housing.  At the same time we have undertaken a construction boom in U.S. government-subsidized housing in the form of prison cells.

Some 2 million people were locked up at the federal, state or local level. Eventually, almost all of them will return to the community. The question of where they will live is an immediate and critical one, and has important consequences for both the ex-offenders and society-at-large.

Ideally, incarceration should change an offenders’ assessment of the benefits and costs of crime in two ways. It should alter their value system, and it should enhance and enrich the options available to returning ex-offenders by offering real alternatives to their lifestyle before incarceration.

Most ex-offenders return to families or friends in their old neighborhoods. Often, this is the environment that helped them get into trouble in the first place. Chances are, they don’t have a job. Chances are they can’t afford first and last month’s rent. That creates the conditions: the lack of stability, the chaos, the poverty, where crime can flourish and where re-incarceration becomes almost inevitable.

I hope that public housing authorities and advocates will follow their example.

Now let us move urgently to creating enough affordable housing so every one of our people in Chicago, and across the nation, have access to a safe, healthy place to stay.

Danny K. Davis, U.S. representative, 7th Congressional District of Illinois

April mainstream media reports: Doubled-up students, homeless encampment removed by neighboring alderman, disabled in city shelters, and more

April 27, 2019

NPR Illinois: The fight over what it means to be homeless — and how that could affect Illinois

By Lee V. Gaines

Just because someone has four walls around them every night, that doesn’t mean they’re housed. That’s what Paul Hamann believes. He’s the president and CEO of the Night Ministry, a Chicago-based non-profit that provides shelter and healthcare services to the homeless.

Hamann said he knows young people who sleep at friends’ homes every night. They’re able to take a shower, and they go to school the next day.

… More than 50,000 students in Illinois were classified as homeless during the 2016-17 school year, according to data from the National Center for Homeless Education. Of those 50,000 students, 83% lived doubled up, about 5% lived in hotels or motels, and fewer than 1% lived unsheltered. Nationally, there were more than  1.3 million homeless students identified by their school districts during the 2016-17 school year, and more than three-quarters of them shared housing with others, according to data from NCHE.

Patricia Nix-Hodes director of the Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said her agency identified more than 80,000 homeless individuals living in Chicago during 2016 — and 80% of them lived doubled up.

“They’re excluded from housing resources for homeless individuals because they’re not considered homeless by HUD even though they are considered homeless by other federal definitions,” Nix-Hodes said.

“So it just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t reflect the reality of how people experience homelessness in Illinois and nationally…

Link to the report

April 23, 2019

Block Club Chicago: Alderman’s removal of SW Side homeless encampment dubbed ‘heartless, but he says critics don’t live there. 

By Mauricio Peña

BACK OF THE YARDS — Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) is defending the removal of a homeless encampment in Back of the Yards (outside his 15th Ward), after a Facebook post publicizing the removal efforts was criticized as being “heartless” and promoting a “war on the homeless.

… “These sweeps are harmful, they’re counterproductive and you cannot expect to build trust with people and offer services when (people connecting them to services) come out during these types of sweeps,” CCH Community Lawyer Diane O’Connell said. “It’s dehumanizing and wrong.”

Link to the article

April 17, 2019

Chicago Reader: A chronic problem

By John Greenfield

… Smoky el cars and other homeless-related quality of life issues on the CTA reflect Chicago’s larger problems.

Link to the article

April 10, 2019

Illinois News Network: Progressive income tax plan clears first hurdle

By Greg Bishop

… Niya Kelly, state legislative director for Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, spoke in support of the progressive tax during the Senate committee. She said it will give (other) organizations certainty in providing services for the homeless.

“And not have to answer the cruel question of what other things we’ll have to cut in order not to provide them stability,” Kelly said.

Link to the article

April 9, 2019

Chicago Tribune: Questions about how the city homeless shelters handle people with disabilities go unanswered

By Rex Huppke, columnist

There are some well-documented concerns about whether the city of Chicago’s homeless shelters are properly equipped to accommodate homeless people with disabilities.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Chicago woman who claims she was turned away from several shelters because she has rheumatoid arthritis that prevents her from climbing stairs and carrying her own bags….

So I decided to ask the appropriate city office — the Department of Family and Support Services — a series of questions unrelated to the aforementioned lawsuit… Cristina Villarreal, the department’s director of communications, would only answer one question fully — No. 2, the one about shelters that are ADA compliant. In an email back, she wrote: “The city has 5 ADA compliant Shelters across the city and other shelters make reasonable accommodations for residents.”

… I’m just asking city officials to answer some questions and be transparent about how they work with people who constitute a large percentage of Chicago’s homeless population.

If those officials don’t want to answer, or if they want to hide behind a broad interpretation of the “we don’t comment on pending litigation” excuse, that’s up to them.

But I’m going to keep asking the questions. Something tells me there are plenty more to come.

Link to the article

April 5, 2019

Chicago Sun-Times: ‘The Public’ movie examines role libraries play in serving the homeless

By Tony Closson

… For those social workers and librarians, some of whom were present at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless-sponsored screening, Estevez said he wants the film to bring attention to the large responsibilities often placed solely on them.

Link to the article


Marguerite Casey Foundation: Maxica Williams – Homeless advocate knows ‘There Is Power in Numbers’

For César Chávez Day, March 31, Marguerite Casey Foundation honored 36 community leaders across the U.S. who are continuing the legacy of the late farmworker and civil rights advocate. Please join in celebrating their work for a more just and equitable society.

Maxica Williams was among those honored after being nominated by CCH.

Maxica Williams

Hero’s name: Maxica Williams

Home city: Chicago

The person’s organization: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH)

Why is this person a community hero?

“As a cancer survivor who has experienced homelessness, Maxica Williams is using her past to fight for a more equitable future for her community.

She was inspired to fight for change after meeting an organizer from Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) while living at a shelter with her four children in 2016. ‘I was intrigued to learn that elected officials are supposed to work for the people,’ Maxica said. ‘And that they could be held accountable.’

Six months later and cancer-free, Maxica called up CCH and immediately got to work. She marched with the Fight for $15 campaign. She served on focus groups. She registered to vote. And after years of struggle and advocacy, she secured permanent housing for her family in 2017.

In 2018, Maxica spoke with legislators and the press about the difficulties of being homeless, jobless and seriously ill, with only a modest TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) grant for support. By sharing her story, Maxica helped sway legislators to increase TANF grant levels across Illinois for the first time in a decade, providing critical support to the state’s poorest families.

Today, Maxica continues to fight for her community and a better world for her children. She serves as a core group leader on CCH’s Bring Chicago Home campaign and is a member of CCH’s Speakers Bureau. She recently joined CCH’s board of directors, inspired to add her voice and perspective through a new lens.

‘There is power in numbers,’ Maxica says. ‘Together, ending homelessness is within our grasp.’”

Honored by: Erin Sindewald of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless