South Side Weekly: ‘Everyone Is Mad at the Wrong People’: Black Organizers Call for Focus and Nuance in the Affordable Housing Blame Game

Wendy Benitez in an orange shirt and her daughter in a blue cap walk down the sidewalk.

By Wendy Wei and Leslie Hurtado, April 29, 2024

While anti-migrant sentiments have been expressed by many Chicagoans of different backgrounds, much media focus has been on the Black community’s historical tension with Latinx communities. However, lifelong Black housing advocates say that the energy spent on anti-migrant protests could be more productively used if it was channeled toward addressing the root causes of housing instability in the city.

According to DePaul’s Institute for Housing Studies, in 2021, before the first bus arrived from Texas, the city was already short 120,000 affordable housing units to accommodate Chicago’s low-income renter households. 

That same year, the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services counted 3,000 people in shelters, and 702 sheltering on the street (though this number could be as high as 1,500). 73 percent of this population was Black.

Street homelessness is only part of the picture. In 2021, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimated that 68,440 people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago, with most temporarily staying with others, or “doubling up.” In their report, Black Chicagoans made up more than half of the total population experiencing homelessness.

Hendricks says that frustrations have been brewing since the 2008 Great Recession, and were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Black Chicagoans faced severe disparities. Despite constituting about 30 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 60 percent of its COVID-19 fatalities and a quarter of Illinois’ confirmed cases. 

“Because poor people were under a lot of stress and pressure, when they see somebody getting a resource, and they know they’ve been denied some space, they blame those folks and they blame the people who are providing them with those resources. And it becomes a racial tension,” Washington said. “So that’s a misunderstanding of the real situation.We have two crises. A migrant crisis and a housing [crisis].” 

Audacy: Chicago voters will decide fate of Brandon Johnson’s tax increase to fight homelessness

By Mallory Vor Broker and Mike Krauser (Audacy), November 7, 2023

Chicago City Council approved the “Bring Chicago Home” measure on Tuesday, which could lead to an increase in the real estate transfer tax in order to help fund housing and programs for people experiencing homelessness.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, advocates for the proposal rallied across the street from City Hall on the plaza of the former Thompson Center. Mayor Brandon Johnson made his way over to join them.

“We’re not just bringing Chicago home; we’re just not raising revenue; we’re actually demonstrating how the City of Chicago is leading the way for the rest of the world,” Johnson said. “No tricks, no divisive tactics are going to separate us from this moment.”

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is a proud coalition member of Bring Chicago Home.

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Block Club Chicago: Bring Chicago Home Heads To Chicago Voters After Council Passage

BCH supporters hold a banner reading "Bring Chicago Home" after the City Council put the measure on the 2024 ballot. (Block Club Chicago)

By Quinn Myers (Block Club Chicago), November 7, 2023

 A controversial resolution aimed at raising the city’s real estate transfer tax on high-end properties to fund homelessness prevention passed the full City Council Tuesday. The measure, known as Bring Chicago Home, will now head to voters in a ballot referendum question in March.

Progressive activists and anti-homelessness groups have for years advocated to increase the tax rate buyers pay on property sales over $1 million, with the additional revenue dedicated to providing permanent affordable housing and wraparound services for people who are unhoused. The policy was a central promise of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s mayoral campaign earlier this year.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is a proud coalition member of Bring Chicago Home.

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Crain’s: Effort to raise tax on high-end property sales will go to Chicago voters

The Chicago City Council chambers are shown, including a large desk and two smaller tables. Some alderpeople gather in the foreground.

By Justin Laurence (Crain’s), November 7, 2023

After another chaotic day at City Hall, the Chicago City Council approved a resolution 32 to 17 to add the question to the ballot, which, if approved by a simple majority, will allow the city to tweak the tax imposed when a property is sold. 

The so-called Bring Chicago Home campaign was a key campaign promise of Mayor Brandon Johnson, who rallied with supporters outside the Thompson Center on Tuesday ahead of the vote.

Between now and the March 19 primary, the referendum campaign will be intense, pitting the real estate industry against those who say an increase to the city’s real estate transfer tax is the best way to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into programs to build permanent supportive housing to drive down the rate of homelessness in the city. 

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is a proud coalition member with Bring Chicago Home.

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WTTW- Proposal to Hike Taxes on Sales of Million-Dollar Homes to Fight Homelessness Clears Key Hurdle

An August report from the Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, a member of the coalition that crafted the Bring Chicago Home proposal, found that the number of Chicagoans who do not have a permanent home grew 4% between 2020 and 2021 to 68,440 people.

More than 80% of unhoused Chicagoans are Black or Latino, with Black Chicagoans making up 53% of those who are unhoused in Chicago, according to the coalition.

Streetlight Chicago Launch Party

This Fall 2023 we will present the relaunching of the app and website. We are hard at work to ensure the resources are listed and the community is informed.

Sign up today and we will reach out when the relaunch party details are finalized.

SLC Launch Contact Form


StreetLight Chicago

Thank you for your interest in participating in our engagement session! We have received many inquiries and this event can safely host 20 individuals. This session is to talk about StreetLight Chicago, an app designed and funded by grants to focus on youth 24 and under.  

We appreciate all interest however priority for the 20 spots will be granted to people ages 14-24  

We know 25+ people use the app. If you are over 24 you can still register, and you will be put on a waitlist. If there are still open spots, we will pull names by lottery and contact you on 5/18 to let you know if we have room.  

Again, we appreciates your interest, and depending on resources we hope be able to host a second session at a later date for those who are unable to join us on this round.  

Thank you for RSVPing, at this time (5/18) registration has closed for this event. Please stay in touch, there will be more events around StreetLight Chicago in the future.

May 19th, 10am-2pm

Taco Bar Lunch

CCH Office, 70 E Lake Street, Chicago IL

Check out the app and website before you come!

CCH Senior Attorney Reflects on Recent Civil Rights Victory for Ms. Julie Campos

“It will take action”… to repair relations between the police and the community.

Our client, a young single mother experiencing housing instability was at work providing for her family when her interactions with the Chicago police occurred. This incident took place during a period of civil unrest in our city following the murder of George Floyd. Relations between the police and the community, already tense, were now fractured. This was an opportunity for the police to restore relations with the community. They could have offered a hand, or at the very least, demonstrated gratitude for the employees working to restore a local business. What happened instead: our client was arrested unlawfully, detained, and was charged with resisting/obstructing a police officer.   

We (CCH, Porter Wright and ACLU of IL) obtained a substantial settlement for our client, and not long after this lawsuit was filed, the main officer involved in violating our client’s constitutional rights retired from the Chicago Police Department.

This officer had a history of numerous complaints filed against them during their career as a police officer.  

As a youth, I aspired to be an advocate for individuals who were more likely to experience adversity because of the inequities that exist in this society and our city. As a Latino man that was born and raised in Chicago, I have witnessed these inequities firsthand and have lived in communities disproportionally impacted by them. I want to be an advocate for change. I want to see us get to a place where the color of a person’s skin doesn’t impact their interactions with the police or the criminal justice system. Where it doesn’t determine the level of dignity and respect afforded to them. I want to live in city that doesn’t over-police the same communities it disinvests in.  

I believe relations with the police and the community are fractured but they can still be repaired. But it’s going to take action and not rhetoric to achieve this result. At CCH, we engage in work that moves us closer to a just society. This case is evidence of that, and I am humbled and honored to play a crucial role in this work.  

– Arturo Hernandez, Senior Attorney for the Law Project at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.  

Related Media Coverage:

Video of Police Cam footage:

Press Release February 6, 2022

Press Release May 26, 2022



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Columbia Chronicle: Housing program finds homes for 100 families

High school student Sonitra Mitchell, 17, said she has been in and out of her grandmother’s house since birth—sometimes living with four different families at a time.

Mitchell is one of the 82,212 homeless people in Chicago, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’ April 19 report for 2015. Of the homeless population, 82 percent identify as doubled-up families-, or families staying with other families.

“There is nowhere that I can call my home,” Mitchell said. “I had to come to school thinking everything was okay, knowing I was in pain and going through [anxiety.]”

According to an April 20 press release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, the city will start housing 100 of these families this fall through the new Housing Homeless Families program. The Department of Family and Support Services is partnering with the coalition and the Corporation for Supportive Housing-, –a community housing organization, to provide new permanent housing for families from six public schools in Humboldt Park, Englewood, West Englewood and Austin.

Maura McCauley, DFSS Chicago region director of Homeless Prevention, Policy and Planning, said the goal is for families to receive housing where they can reconnect with their existing support networks or find new ones.

“Homelessness can be a traumatic experience, and we know that housing stability through having your own home contributes to the overall well-being for all people,” McCauley said. “With children, we know that also contributes to educational success.”

The families will be chosen through a “vulnerability index,” which will take many factors into consideration including the ages and number of children, and the physical and mental health of their families, said Julie Dworkin, director of policy at the CCH. Those who receive the highest scores during the assessment will be given housing, she added.

For some families, this housing opportunity will mean not having to undergo hardships like having to leave belongings behind when moving into another person’s home or a hotel, Mitchell said.

“It’s been kind of terrible because you have no room, no space and no privacy,” she said. “The only difference between doubled-up [housing] and living in shelters is that you are living with someone that you actually know.”

While Mitchell will not be considered for the program because she lives in West Pullman, this is the first city housing program that will take doubled-up families similar to hers into consideration for housing, Dworkin said.

“Because this program is all locally generated funding, we advocated for them to include the doubled-up families, and [Emanuel] agreed to do that,” Dworkin said. “They are going to be considered for the first time.”

The funding for the program will be a combination of $1 million from the city’s 4 percent Airbnb tax, and $1 million from the Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund, according to Dworkin.

Families who are not eligible to receive housing can still be assessed and given other resources and support services, McCauley said.

The department will start meeting with families at the end of the 2016–2017 academic year to inform them about the different resources for which they are eligible, but they will not start assessing families for the housing program until the next academic year, she added.

“We are rolling out this coordinated process to identify families in need, assess them quickly and match them to the appropriate resource,” McCauley said. “I hope the housing is the beginning of a long period of stability.”