Before school resumed, the CCH Law Project was reaching out to homeless students about school resources as well as training Chicago Public Schools (CPS) staff who work with homeless children and teens.
Law’s outreach project – Every Child in School, Every Day – distributed back-to-school materials in the Brighton Park and Back of the Yards neighborhoods on August 22, four days before classes resumed. A signature project of JPMorgan Chase’s legal department, the outreach program mobilizes volunteers from Chase, CCH, and area law schools. More than 4,000 door hangers, brochures and posters were distributed that day at homes, shops and community venues by 15 Chase volunteers and six CCH staff members.
Meanwhile, eight Loyola University law students assisted with outreach August 21, distributing hundreds of materials at West Side El stops, while Associate Law Director Patricia Nix-Hodes met with families at Saturday’s Taste of Austin. These efforts were reinforced by staff and law interns attending nine other school fairs this summer, providing in-person advice and written materials on educational rights of homeless students at venues throughout the Chicago area.
Also, in the past two weeks, CCH helped train 1,200 CPS school clerks and homeless liaisons. Youth Attorney Beth Cunningham mobilized service providers to assist her in trainings about the services available for homeless youth, including new city-funded drop-in centers and shelter programs.
Joining CCH in staffing all 12 training sessions were Beacon Therapeutic, La Casa Norte, National Runaway Safeline, and Teen Living Programs (TLP). The CPS office of Educational Support for Students in Temporary Living Situations, managed by Amber Damerow, led the trainings.
At the trainings, CCH and TLP distributed a new resources guide sheet for those who work with homeless and unaccompanied youth in Chicago.
Last school year, CPS identified 18,669 homeless students, an 8.2% increase from the prior year’s record. CPS resumes classes on Monday, August 26, offering free CTA transportation for all students and their caregivers on the first day of school.
During Thursday’s street outreach, CCH and Chase volunteers distributed bi-lingual materials in neighborhoods served by Kelly High School, 4136 S. California Ave., and Richards Career Academy, 5009 S. Laflin Ave. Enrollment at both high schools is largely Latino and low-income, with a very small percentage identified as homeless. At Kelly, 95.7% of its 2,920 students are low-income, but only 112 (3.8%) teens were identified as homeless. At nearby Richards, 91.8% of its 515 students are low-income, with 19 teens (3.7%) identified as homeless.
“We were in a predominately Latino community that was especially receptive and excited to receive the information we were handing out in Spanish so they can better understand their educational rights,” said Toni Adduci, Chase’s assistant outreach coordinator and an executive assistant in the legal compliance department.
Thursday’s outreach day is part of a year-long effort to distribute educational materials ensuring that no- or low-income and unstably housed students and their families understand their rights to immediate school enrollment, full waiver of school fees, and transportation assistance. The materials explain that students and parents can phone the Law Project helpline for legal advice, at (800) 940-1119.
“I am concerned parents and kids are not aware of the fees that can be waived, especially in our economy. They need to know about their resources and we appreciate being a part of CCH’s effort to spread the word. It is a great cause,” said another Chase volunteer, Ava Smith.
Our Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic was stationed on the Southwest Side to handle legal inquiries by outreach teams. Ms. Cunningham also met with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council to discuss further outreach opportunities in the area.
“I drive these streets daily not realizing how this area can benefit,” said Stephanie Ciupa, a former Brighton Park resident who volunteered through Chase.
Sharlita M. Davis, an assistant vice president and chair of the signature project at Chase, agreed that “today’s outreach was important because we branched out to a new community that is in desperate need of the knowledge and resources we have to offer.” Ms. Davis serves as a member of the CCH Board of Directors and is a student at The John Marshall Law School.
– Ali Heinen, Legal Intake Coordinator
– Photos by Ryan Greenlaw, Law Intern