Updated May 28 – The coronavirus pandemic amplifies the hardships experienced by people who are homeless as well as those who have been homeless and risk facing it again.
Responding to pressing community need, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) created the CCH Mutual Aid Fund. The fund will provide direct cash support of up to $500 to about 300 Illinois residents in need.
During the 5-day application period, which ran May 11 – 15, over 6,000 people applied. There are funds enough to assist about 300 applicants.
CCH grassroots leaders – people who have experienced homelessness and work in partnership with CCH staff – run the fund. Leaders designed the fund and will decide which requests receive support. Grants will be dispersed by late June.
“Tragically, the homeless community has been overlooked and underserved. The COVID-19 crisis is no exception. It’s important that the Mutual Aid Fund is governed by people with lived experience because we have a unique perspective on the needs of our community,” said Edrika Fulford, a grassroots leader and founding member of the Mutual Aid Committee.
“As an organization that works to build power for people who are often pushed to the side, it is important to CCH that we create a fund run by our leaders,” added Community Organizer Alyssa Rodriguez.
The 5-day application period opened at 9 a.m. Monday, May 11. People could apply online, in English or Spanish and at any hour, through the CCH website – www.chicagohomeless.org – until it closed at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 15.
Applicants also could apply over the phone, at (312) 641-4148. Phone calls were answered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On the final day, May 15, calls were taken from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. If phone lines are busy, applicants can leave a message with their phone number. A CCH operator returned all calls by May 27 to help them fill out an application. Spanish-speaking operators were available.
The fund is open to residents of Illinois who are currently homeless or have been homeless in the past and at risk of becoming homeless again. Applicants must be at least 18 years old; or if they are an unaccompanied youth, at least 16 years old. Undocumented individuals and permanent residents are welcome to apply. No more than one grant per household will be awarded.
The fund will have up to $150,000 to distribute, thanks to support given by Affirm Cares Employee Foundation, Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, Grassroots Collaborative, Homestead Affordable Development Corporation, Jay Pritzker Foundation, and over 190 individual donors.
“With over 80,000 people in Chicago experiencing homelessness, we know that this fund cannot help everyone facing hardship. But we hope that it can make a difference in the lives of those we can reach as we continue to advocate for broader systems change, putting both funding and policies in place that will end homelessness once and for all,” said Doug Schenkelberg, CCH’s Executive Director.