By Mary Tarullo, Associate Director of Policy
Community leaders, board members, coalition partners, funders, donors, and staff of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless celebrated CCH victories tonight at a 2017 victory celebration at Chicago’s Grace Place.
CCH honored nine educators and political leaders crucial to making these accomplishments a reality. We also commended generous support from the Bridgeview Bank Group.
One victory was the expansion of public housing accessibility for returning citizens. With the John “Juancho” Donahue Award, we acknowledged the significant leadership role that Gene Jones, CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority, has played in advancing a housing pilot advocated by the CCH Reentry Project.
CCH also presented its Les Brown Award to Cook County Clerk David Orr, retiring in 2019 after a 40-year career of public service. This includes Mr. Orr’s advocacy to provide free birth records for homeless and other vulnerable people, available since April in Cook County and statewide this January.
Three Chicago Public Schools (CPS) principals – Douglas Maclin of Chicago Vocational Career Academy, Ramona Outlaw of Harlan Community Academy High School, and Anthony Rodriguez of Schurz High School – were honored for their support. They have been outstanding partners in CCH efforts to inform and organize students who live in doubled-up homeless situations.
We also honored Mayoral Deputy Policy Director Robin Ficke. CCH cited Ms. Ficke’s commitment to homeless families. This includes her work to create Housing Support for CPS Families in Transition (FIT) and for ensuring that doubled-up families are among the 100 homeless families that will be housed by FIT.
CCH led several state legislative campaigns this year. State Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) and State Sen. Jim Durkin (R-Westchester) carried our successful legislation to provide housing and employment access to more returning citizens by expanding criminal record-sealing eligibility.
In accepting her award, Rep. Lilly said, “It is an honor just to represent what people believe they need, and stand next to them as they advocate those needs… They come home, they have served their time, and it shouldn’t have to follow them the rest of their lives.”
We also honored State Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford). Rep. Wallace championed the College Hunger Bill, which would grant SNAP food benefits to low-income vocational-track community college students. The bill passed the General Assembly, but received an amendatory veto by Gov. Rauner. A followup bill passed the Senate but not the House before the fall veto session concluded. The SNAP bill will be reintroduced in 2018.
Finally, we gratefully recognized Bridgeview Bank Group for its “Hearts for the Homeless” program. The bank raised more than $36,000 for CCH in 2015 and 2016, with its third-year campaign just concluded.
Many thanks to this year’s honorees and congratulations to everyone involved in making progress toward our mission to end homelessness!
– Photos by Jaime Schmitz