“The bottom of the Empire,” was Reverend Jesse Jackson’s description of who Martin Luther King was seeking to serve with his politically revolutionary ministry of the 1960s. Jackson was standing in the Reverend Martin Luther King Legacy Apartments on the West Side of Chicago to give a press conference on, what would have been, King’s 93rd birthday, January 15, 2022. Joining Jackson were representatives from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Illinois Union for the Homeless. The city of Chicago has transformed the lobby of the King Legacy apartment building into a small museum, showcasing the governmental-capital conspiracy that created the “ghetto.” Through decades of redlining and other discriminatory lending practices, public infrastructural programs to preserve segregation, police enforcement of residential borders, and “neighborhood covenants” among white homeowners and landlords to never sell or rent to Blacks, Northern cities became white fiefdoms.
A homeless man Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, gathers his belongings at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Clark & Dearborn bus station. On Wednesday, aldermen extended an agreement house homeless residents at a downtown hotel as the pandemic continues into the winter. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
People experiencing homelessness face many challenges when temperatures drop quickly like this week.
Reset hears from two advocacy groups on an upcoming homeless count and what resources they have in frigid weather.
Federal funding for struggling renters is running out in many states. The December 2020 relief package and the American Rescue Plan provided over $46 billion in emergency rental assistance that went directly to states, but now several, including Texas, New York, and Oregon, have used up their portion of those funds. This comes on top of the Supreme Court ending the federal moratorium on evictions in late August, leaving the 12 million adults who are behind on their rent at risk of losing their housing. One out of five of these renters lives with children. The calamity of eviction can result in additional dire consequences for families: having their children removed by child welfare.
The warmth of summer has left Chicago—and temperatures are steadily dropping as winter intensifies. In a matter of days, the weather will be freezing. That is a matter of life and death for the tens of thousands of people currently experiencing houslessness in the city.
According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, there were 58,273 unhoused Chicagoans in 2019, and the economic turbulence caused by the ongoing pandemic has probably caused that number to rise. A significant percentage of those without homes are minors. This year, for example, the Chicago Public School system reported serving 10,836 homeless students. And the majority of Chicagoans without housing are people of color; CCH reports that roughly 60 percent of those affected are Black, and 25 percent are Latinx.
For the past 19 years, when students in Kane County have missed school, Kari Glenn has visited their homes to see what’s preventing them from attending classes. As a truancy officer, she says this year has been the hardest. In one of the families Glenn works with, the single parent died, leaving behind four young children. “Now they’re going to be living with a relative and that relative isn’t completely prepared to take on four little kids,“ she said.
In November, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) was excited to add a superlative group of new board members to our governing board. These eight people bring an amazing breadth of knowledge, talent, and passion to an existing stellar line-up of committed board members. We are so incredibly grateful to each of them for giving their time and energy to CCH’s mission.
We asked each of them to answer this question: What motivates you to be part of our mission to prevent and end homelessness in Chicago/Illinois?
The problem of unaffordable housing — and the inextricable problem of people experiencing homelessness — is so obvious in major cities, including New York, where I live, that it can be overwhelming. For some, that feeling can be translated into a sense of learned blindness — If I don’t look too hard, it is not a problem, and certainly not my problem.
Jeffrey Wolin, a photographer in Chicago and professor emeritus at Indiana University, has taken the opposite approach. He has spent the last several years talking with and documenting the circumstances of people who are homeless. He works with advocacy organizations, including the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, to find participants.
Over 20 years ago, Sontcerá McWilliams was driving her car on Chicago’s South Side near 83rd Street when she got into an accident. The man who’d crashed into her saw her gun, which had been in the trunk with her groceries. Though she had a license, she was taken to jail and charged with unlawful use of a weapon, she said. Three months later, McWilliams, from Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood, was fired from her new job because her weapon charge was still in the system as a felony, not the misdemeanor she had ended up with, she said.
Snow flurries were falling Thursday evening in East Garfield Park when we arrived at Covenant House, a shelter and resource center for young people experiencing homelessness. It was one last sign to make me doubt the wisdom of my promise to join the organization’s annual Sleep Out Chicago event raising funds for — and awareness about — youth homelessness. What made me think I could withstand even one night outside in sub-freezing temperatures, even though homeless people do it night after night.