Celebrating successes, CCH honors legislators & community leaders

Leaders and allies of CCH gathered at the celebration on Tuesday.
CCH leaders and allies gather in celebration.

Celebrating recent successes, CCH this week honored several state legislators, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown for their work.

“No doubt everybody in this room has done something to accomplish what we’re acknowledging today,” said Executive Director Ed Shurna, kicking off a July 23 lunch attended by 50 allies and community leaders. 

Rep. Greg Harris accepting his award.
State Rep. Greg Harris accepts his award.

First cited was the effective work to stop dramatic state cutbacks to shelters and other programs assisting homeless people. State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) was honored for his leadership in protecting homeless funding, including $500,000 in restored funds for homeless youth programs that have been cut back in recent years.

In accepting his award, Rep. Harris commended CCH leaders – “all of you who’ve come down to Springfield to give a face and a name to the struggle.”

State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) was cited for her leadership in sponsoring the bill that created the Illinois Rental Housing Support Program in 2005. Sen. Martinez also sponsored a 2013 bill passed that ensured continued funding for the rental support program, which assists 2,400 households.

On behalf of CCH’s SAGE group (Survivors Advocacy Group Empowered), Glenda Sykes presented an award State Sen. Dale

CCH Leader Glenda Sykes presenting Sen. Righter with his award.
SAGE leader Glenda Sykes presents State Sen. Dale Righter with his award.

Righter (R-Matoon) for his leadership in securing support for Senate Bill 1872. When signed by the governor, SB 1872 will eliminate the felony-level prostitution charge in Illinois.

In March, Ms. Sykes testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the difficulties she faced trying to find a job and rebuild her life with a felony record for prostitution.

“When Glenda started to testify,” Sen. Righter said, accepting his award, “I just sat up to listen. In 16 years, I’ve never had a single witness turn my opinion on a bill like that. I ended up speaking for the bill on the floor of the Senate.”

Added Sen. Righter, “There are a lot of serious problems in our state today, but none of them can’t be solved as long as there are people who have the courage, like Glenda showed that day, to tell their story and reach out and say come here and help me solve this problem.”

Director of the CCH Law Project Rene Heybach presenting Sen. Ira Silverstein with his award.
Law Project Director Rene Heybach presents State Sen. Ira Silverstein with his award.

CCH also honored State Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) for sponsoring the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights, which now awaits the governor’s signature. Sen. Silverstein likewise commended Policy Specialist Jennifer Cushman for securing broad legislative support, while noting that Sen. Righter also helped get the bill enacted.

Albany Park Neighborhood Council (APNC) was commended for its leadership of the Keep Chicago Renting coalition. Enacted by the City Council June 5, Keep Chicago Renting protects rent-paying tenants who live in buildings where an owner has been foreclosed.

Associate Policy Director Eithne McMenamin praised APNC’s Diane Limas and Demian Kogan for an organization that was “indefatigable and wonderful and persistent at every turn.” Ms. Limas also commended Ms. McMenamin’s “very dedicated work” for the campaign, on which CCH was a partner. Ms. Limas added that Keep Chicago Renting learned coalition-building and organizing strategy from APNC’s work with the Sweet Home Chicago coalition, which CCH manages.

Mark Brown accepting his award from Ewing Manager Michael and CCH Organizing Director Jim Field.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown accepts his award from the Ewing’s reesident manager, Michael Bush, and  Organizing Director Jim Field.

Meanwhile, CCH also presented an award to Mark Brown for his moving coverage about men who live at the city’s last two cubicle hotels. Working with the Shriver Center, StreetWise, and others, CCH organizers helped residents stop two aldermen’s plans to pass an ordinance that would have closed the Ewing Annex Hotel in the Loop and the Wilson’s Men’s Club in Uptown.

Said Organizing Director Jim Field, “When I first visited the Ewing, within five minutes I met three people who used the word ‘home.’ They said, ‘This is our home.'”

CCH cited Mr. Brown’s recent series on the cubicle hotels, Ald. James Cappleman’s efforts to evict a Salvation Army food truck from Uptown, and street sweeps of homeless people. Jim read aloud the lead on Mr. Brown’s first column about the Ewing, saying, “It should be on a sign in our office.”

“When people in power start saying stuff like ‘nobody should have to live like that,’ those who are living like that know to be on guard against something bad headed their way,” Mr. Brown had written.

Mr. Brown’s award was presented by Michael Bush, resident manager of the Ewing. The veteran columnist noted that CCH had not told him that he would be honored at the lunch.

“For good reason,” he added. “These stories are their own reward… They resonate with me, and they resonate with readers.”

There was a lot of energy and laughter in the room as those gathered thanked each other for their effective work.

– J.D. Klippenstein & Anne Bowhay, Media

– Ryan Greenlaw, Photos