Farewell to Policy Specialist Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes in Springfield

It is bittersweet for me to announce that I will be leaving the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless at the end of August to join the staff at the Chicago Urban League.

I started my career at CCH almost three years ago as a Policy Fellow, where I worked on legislation removing barriers to employment in schools for people with criminal records. This legislation (HB 494) was the first that I advocated for, and it gave me a unique opportunity to quickly learn the complex political dynamics in Springfield. Furthermore, due to the controversy surrounding the legislation, it allowed me to build partnerships and relationships with a diverse coalition of allies from key organizations including Community Renewal Society, Heartland Alliance, and Cabrini Green Legal Aid. Over the past two and half years, four other bills we advocated for have been signed into law, with another (HB 2373) on Gov. Rauner’s desk. All of these bills removed barriers to employment for people with criminal backgrounds, and were led by people directly impacted by the criminal justice system.

Jonathan (right) with Reentry Committee leaders (from left) Ali Simmons and Charles Austin

This past year, I helped develop the structure for CCH’s new Racial Equity Committee, with the mission of implementing, supporting, and advancing equity and racial justice both within the organization and throughout the community. This gave me an opportunity to process and engage with fellow staff on ways to address the intersection of racism and homelessness, and advocate for policies and practices to address equity both inside and outside CCH. While I am leaving the organization, I look forward to seeing and learning how CCH advances in its efforts around racial equity.

At the Chicago Urban League, I will serve as the Race and Equity Coordinator, working to advance racial justice by placing racial equity in the center of policy discussions and decisions in Chicago. I will convene discussions and events with media, nonprofits, and other stakeholders to help define the problem of structural racism in Chicago. I will also research and analyze best practices and theories for implementing racial equity organizationally and structurally.

Jonathan (right) with (from left) Sam Tuttle of Heartland Alliance, Lindsey Hammond of Community Renewal Society, and State Rep. Camille Lilly (Photo by CRS)

CCH gave me the opportunity to advocate for and advance public policy in ways that gain insight, instruction, and information from people directly impacted by homelessness, mass incarceration, and other disparities. I learned about the importance of coalition work, healthy ways to engage with communities most in need, and best practices for advancing public policy.

So many of the skills I learned and experiences I had at CCH will help me in my new role at the Urban League. I am sad to be leaving CCH, but equally excited about this new opportunity in my professional career. I will always remember CCH as being a supportive and sincere organization that has helped me grow both personally and professionally.