National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week: ‘Homelessness impacted me throughout my entire life.’

During National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, CCH will offer essays by people who work with us, writing about what inspires their work.

By Juanita Rodgers, Grassroots Leader

Juanita Rodgers

My name is Juanita Rodgers and I am one of the newest grassroots leaders for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. I am originally from Jackson, Mississippi and I have lived in Illinois since I was 16. I moved to Chicago two years ago. I have three daughters who are adults now and have all completed college. I majored in journalism, criminal justice, as well as human service management, and will soon go back to college to finish at least one of my majors.

Homelessness impacted me throughout my entire life. I grew up in foster homes and shelters at a young age in Mississippi. When I moved to Illinois it was no different, because I was asked to leave with my daughter just shy of my 18th birthday. The high school that I attended saw potential in me and reached out to help. They provided a place for me to stay so that I could focus on graduation.

Before I moved to Chicago, I had told myself and others that I was moving to Chicago to “be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.” That was my motivation. That has always been my motivation over the years. Unfortunately, I did not know that I was going to have to sleep in my car to be a part of that solution. I did not know how to get access to programs that I needed to get back on my feet. I was denied everything, even a medical card.

It is extremely important that we work towards ending and preventing homelessness because nobody wants to be homeless. Some of these homeless individuals have no hope. They refuse help because of the broken system. Some people are homeless because of issues beyond their control.

Preventing homelessness also will decrease some of the crime rates. Homeless people can be easy targets. With less people on the streets there would be fewer innocent targets for random robberies, rape victims, and even murders. Everyone deserves the opportunity to have their own home. Shelter and transitional living are supposed to be temporary. The waiting list should not be that long.

What inspired me to write “Bring Chicago Home” came from a poem I wrote called “City Streets.” I had written it a while ago and lost the original copy. I have been trying for years to retrieve that poem to re-write it for my poetry book, “Diamonds on A Black Sheep.” When I was working downtown and saw people sleeping on the sidewalk, I heard the streets of Chicago again. When I was presented with an opportunity to enter a poetry contest sponsored by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the words to “Bring Chicago Home” just came out. Now I can continue writing my book that focuses on the injustice we face in the inner cities nationwide.

I will continue this fight to end homelessness for all. I will continue to the fight to Bring Chicago Home!


Bring Chicago Home

Juanita Rodgers reads her poem, Bring Chicago Home, at CCH’s Victory Celebration on Nov. 7.

A poem by Juanita Rodgers

As I walk along these city streets

I see people who just want to eat and sleep.

People who just want a chance;

To live in a home without demands.

People who have somehow become lost;

In a system of greed without any cost.

People who are human like you and me.

But have been stripped of their rights and just want to be free.

These people are humans who are just looking for help.

Yet, they get the door slammed in their faces, due to greed and wealth.

Blaming these people for the situation that they are in.

Telling these people that they do not stand a chance.

So why is it so hard to get these people off the streets?

Because it does not affect you or even me?

Until something happens to us to force us to stand out in the rain.

So, who are we to judge these people we see standing in the cold, shaking their cans?

Well, it’s time for us to make demands!

It’s time for us to take a stance!

It’s time for us to push our politicians!

It’s time for us to make them listen.

So, what, are you going to stand there and continue to walk by?

Shed a tear or maybe even cry?

It’s time out for that because they don’t stand alone.

It’s time for us to Bring Chicago Home!


Juanita works with CCH Community Organizer Bisma Shoukat.

Link to more information on National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week