With Chicago Public Schools reopening on Sept. 6, the Law Project staff and Loyola University law students went to Chicago’s West Side Austin neighborhood to canvass and engage with the community about the rights of homeless students.
Five staff members and 10 Loyola law students distributed 2,445 door hangers, posters, brochures, and informational pamphlets at homes and businesses, including churches, daycare centers, laundromats, and schools. The school outreach material is printed with support from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation.
Anyone with questions or seeking assistance should call the Law Project’s toll-free helpline, 800/940-1119, Monday through Friday.
During Wednesday’s outreach, staff and volunteers spoke with community members about fee waivers for low-income families and the specific services to which homeless students are entitled. One such service is assistance with transportation for students in temporary living situations.
“I spoke with one mother who had lost housing and was told that she needed to live more than five miles from the school in order to get a bus card for her 10-year-old daughter,” said staff attorney Diane O’Connell. “The mother was concerned because without the bus card her daughter would have to walk a long distance through unsafe parts of the neighborhood.”
The Law Project is working with the family to resolve the issue, as homeless students returning to their school of origin are entitled to transportation assistance under CPS policy, state and federal law.
Other residents and parents said that they did not know that low-income students can request school fee waivers.
“I need this,” said a mother of two high-school aged daughters, as she took a Law Project fee waiver brochure.
Law Project staff and interns have been traveling to back-to-school events throughout Chicago and the suburbs, including fairs in Austin, Elgin and Kankakee. Our outreach informs families about their educational rights at this busy time of year, when families are faced with added costs and demands that hit homeless parents especially hard.