Working alongside coalition partners, legislators, and community allies, this year CCH secured many victories to increase resources and remove barriers for people experiencing homelessness in Illinois.
From strengthening the Homelessness Prevention grant program to upholding the rights of people living on the street, 2019 has been a year with progress to celebrate.
On Thursday, November 7, CCH honored community and political leaders who made this year’s successes possible.
The celebration featured poetry by grassroots leaders Juanita Rodgers and April Harris, with awards recognizing some of the people whose efforts were key to this year’s legislative and legal wins.
Invited honorees are:
Les Brown Award: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker
In his first year at the helm, Gov. Pritzker helped shepherd two of CCH’s longstanding priorities: implementing a fair tax structure and a living wage. In the spring session, the General Assembly passed bills to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 and to let voters decide on the November 2020 ballot whether Illinois should adopt a graduated income tax.
“We want to recognize Gov. Pritzker for the tremendous work that he has done to move Illinois into a more progressive place.” – Niya Kelly, State Legislative Director
John “Juancho” Donahue Award: Chicago Alderman Roberto Maldonado
As chief sponsor of a CCH-advocated resolution to substantially reduce homelessness in Chicago, Ald. Maldonado has demonstrated his commitment to housing as a human right. Since Bring Chicago Home launched last October, Ald. Maldonado has been a strong ally. He has rallied City Council colleagues to support creation of a permanent city revenue stream legally dedicated to addressing homelessness.
“Ald. Maldonado has been one of our staunchest supporters since the beginning. On many occasions he has gone above and beyond and always has the courage to stand up for what is right.” – Julie Dworkin, Policy Director
State Representative Delia Ramirez
Rep. Ramirez (Chicago – 4th District) served as chief sponsor of a bill to strengthen the Illinois Homelessness Prevention grant program, launched 20 years ago through CCH advocacy. More than 118,000 households were helped through mid-2018. With passage of House Bill 3331, service providers can assist people who need support with arrearages or short-term housing assistance for up to six months. The bill also permits more comprehensive case management for individuals and families in the program.
“Rep. Ramirez is quickly developing a reputation for being a strong champion for homelessness and housing insecurity issues. In addition to her work with HB3331, she helped to negotiate a $5 million increase to the Homelessness Prevention program line-item in the state budget, bringing the total to $9 million annually.” – Jim Picchetti, Associate Director of Organizing and State Network Coordinator
State Senator Omar Aquino
As chief sponsor of Senate Bill 1780, Sen. Aquino (Chicago – 2nd District) worked with reentry advocates to enact a measure barring housing discrimination to people in reentry. This legislation makes it a civil rights violation to discriminate during a real estate transaction based on an individual’s arrest record that did not lead to a conviction, a juvenile record, or a record that has been ordered sealed or expunged. Sen. Aquino worked with the CCH Reentry Project, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance, groups that work together as the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI).
“Sen. Aquino understood the urgency of protecting people from housing discrimination in Illinois. He really took charge and helped pass SB1780 through committee and the Senate floor during the last three days of session.” – Mercedes González, Policy Specialist
Shawn Moore and Amie Smith
In May, Law Project clients Shawn Moore and Amie Smith secured a favorable settlement in their case Smith v. City of Chicago. The couple experienced an 18-month pattern of harassment by two police officers while living on Lower Wacker Drive, including repeated seizure of their property. The case was co-counseled by CCH and the Hughes Socol law firm. It was the third settlement reached with the city of Chicago over violations of the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights, enacted in 2013 after CCH advocacy. After years of living on the street, Shawn and Amie received a housing subsidy last winter and moved into an apartment close to Lake Michigan.
“Shawn and Amie are fighters and I’m so happy we’re honoring them. They were really committed to the case, believed what had happened to them was unjust, and wanted to fight to make it right.” – Diane O’Connell, Community Lawyer
North Side Housing and Supportive Services
North Side Housing has been a steadfast member of the Bring Chicago Home coalition since its launch last fall, serving on the Leadership Committee and providing high-level strategy and boots-on-the-ground support. Led by staffers Luwana Johnson and Diveda Duplessis, this housing provider has played a critical role in moving Bring Chicago Home forward: They chair meetings and press conferences, advocate with aldermen to endorse the cause, write letters of support, and turn out supporters to rallies and actions.
“North Side Housing is a great housing partner because they’ve been there every step of the way. They are completely committed to being involved and have not missed a beat. They go far and beyond in every way. I could go on and on.” – Keith Freeman, Senior Community Organizer
A strong advocate with the RROCI reentry coalition, attorney Beth Johnson has helped enact seven reentry bills since 2016, including four job-access bills and two record-sealing bills. This year, Beth offered her legal expertise to help RROCI enact new housing protections to the Illinois Human Rights Act. It bars discrimination in housing to people with arrest, expunged or juvenile records.
“Beth has been a dedicated RROCI partner since the very beginning. By providing legal advice and analysis and lobbying assistance, Beth has successfully moved our bills forward and has been key to our success.” – Mercedes González, Policy Specialist
– Story by Erin Sindewald, Development Manager
– Photos by Associate Director of Development Claire Sloss