A new program will provide eligible CPS students with funding to assist with educational, living, and other expenses.
By Alyssa Phillips, Education Attorney
This week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Interim Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Dr. José M. Torres announced the creation of the Chicago Families Forward Fund. It will provide a $500 microgrant to CPS students experiencing housing insecurity to assist with needs that families and students are facing.
This funding is critical and a step in the right direction as families and students experiencing homelessness have faced housing instability, job loss, loss of family members and serious health issues during the pandemic. All Chicago families and students need housing and other resources to succeed in school. The direct, flexible payments to CPS families and students experiencing homelessness will allow families and students to address a variety of unique and urgent needs.
All students enrolled in CPS’ Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS) program are eligible to receive the grant. ‘Temporary living situations’ refer to a lack of fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, including students/families who are doubled-up or couch surfing due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; staying in an emergency or transitional shelter; or another temporary living situation.
Maxica Williams, a member of our CPS Focus Group, a group of caregivers with lived experience of homelessness who have students in CPS said, “This funding will help families in temporary living situations devastated by COVID-19 with needed funding for rent, utilities, essentials for the family like clothing, shoes, toiletries and paying for medication or medical expenses. The funding is a big step in helping STLS families recover from COVID-19.”
To determine eligibility for the microgrant, families need to fill out a registration form confirming eligibility at www.cps.edu/FamiliesForwardFund by Friday, October 1, or pick up a paper registration form at the students’ school. If families miss the deadline, they should reach out to the Law Project at CCH immediately. If a family or student believes they may be in a temporary living situation but have not enrolled in the Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS) program through their school, they should still complete the registration and connect with the STLS liaison or advocate at the student’s school to make sure they are identified as eligible for the STLS program and the microgrants.
Unaccompanied youth are also eligible for the funding, and should register even if they do not have a custodial parent or legal guardian.
Enrollment in the Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS) program fell 34% since the 2018-19 school year, likely reflecting the decreased ability of schools to effectively identify students’ housing status during the pandemic rather than a true decrease in homelessness.
We hope that the Chicago Families Forward Fund will be a meaningful first step in reengaging thousands of children who lost consistent touch with their schools over the past year, and ensuring that students eligible for the STLS program are receiving the support they are entitled to.
Recommendations that the Law Project and our CPS Focus Group provided to CPS last month also include using federal funding to hire more staff to assist with identifying and supporting all homeless students, expanding transportation services, and creating a parent committee to provide running feedback.
If families, students, or community providers need any assistance with the registration process or have any questions, please contact the Law Project Education Attorney Alyssa Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 872.588.6800.