Homeless student advocate positions now open at 14 Chicago public schools

New positions won in the historic 2019 CTU strike will be full-time and dedicated solely to removing barriers between families and public education.

CTU Communications: The Chicago Teachers Union is pleased to share news of 18 new Students in Temporary Living Situation (STLS) advocate positions secured in last year’s historic teacher strike. Fourteen schools throughout the city of Chicago are now able to hire STLS advocates to assist Chicago Public Schools students and their families in finding the resources necessary to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and comfortably integrate into their school community.

By law, all CPS schools currently designate a staff person to serve as an STLS liaison. This position is responsible for identifying and enrolling families, managing CTA passes and removing barriers between STLS families and public education. In the past, these duties went mostly to clerks and counselors, who won stipends in last year’s Agreement that acknowledged the additional responsibilities outside of their primary CPS job classification.

The new STLS advocate positions will be full-time and dedicated solely to this work.

The schools with positions are: Clemente High School (filled), Chicago Vocational High School, Chalmers Elementary, Nicholson STEM, Fenger High School, Simeon High School, Dewey Elementary, Julian High School, Bowen High School, Howe Elementary, Gage Park High School, Parker Elementary, Beethoven Elementary, Faraday Elementary and Melody Elementary.

“With all that is going on, we realize that what once was normal is no more, and we have students who have lost family members, housing and stability,” said Lucille Thompson, a PSRP and STLS liaison at Schurz High School and member of the CTU rank-and-file bargaining team. “Having these advocates in our buildings, whose sole responsibility is to help these families adjust to this major trauma, is awesome.”

During the strike, CPS refused to bargain over any housing demands, with Mayor Lori LIghtfoot claiming that the CTU/Chicago Board of Education contract is “not the appropriate place” to address Chicago’s shortcomings in providing affordable housing. Chicago is one of the most unaffordable cities in the country, however, and needs policies to help protect working class and middle class communities that are experiencing rampant gentrification. CPS has been losing tens of thousands of students every year for the past decade, with much of that loss attributed to the city’s housing crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic will make the lack of affordable housing in Chicago even worse as CPS caregivers lose employment due to shelter-in-place orders and the economic downturn. It is going to be more important than ever that every CPS school building has a trained STLS liaison who has strong roots in their community and understands the unique needs of this segment of the student population.

“I’m certain that our STLS number will increase when this is over, and to have someone already in place to provide resources, comfort and genuine concern for our students and families as they go through this is a major asset in education right now,” Thompson added.

Mobility rates are extremely high at some schools. CPS punishes schools where attendance rates go below 95 percent, yet does not provide enough support to help those families improve attendance; and poverty is the main driver of low attendance, especially as it relates to transportation and health issues. The Union hopes these new advocate positions are a step in the right direction to change district policies that punish low-income schools that are unable to meet the same academic outcomes as wealthier schools because of housing instability.

“The STLS advocate positions are so important because there are innumerable barriers students experiencing homelessness face to access and succeed in school,” said Alyssa Phillips, education lawyer for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “The STLS advocate positions allows for a full-time staff member to dedicate time and resources to connect families with school and community supports that are vital to the educational advancement of students who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”

STLS advocate positions are now open and schools have begun the hiring process. The Union encourages all of its members and community partners to help promote these positions. For more information and to apply, search keyword “STLS” on the CPS Careers website.