National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week: Working with amazing grassroots leaders

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

By Niya Kelly

I am the Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. In my role at the organization I work to advance our legislative agenda on a statewide level. I have worked with the organization for four years.

Niya Kelly, CCH Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation

Our work at CCH is unique because we believe that we can and will end homelessness. We know that with the right resources, funding, and supports we could live in a world free from housing insecurity.

This work is important to me because I get to see significant changes both through the policy lens and with our grassroots leaders. Yes, we pass legislation, we change policies and embark on lofty campaigns, but our work is driven by people with lived experience.

In my time here I have seen people who were hesitant to engage become grassroots leaders who are now always ready to reach out to public officials and advocate for change. I get the privilege of working on a white paper that turns into legislation that later becomes a law while also watching the trajectory of a person. They may have been stayed quiet during a focus group but become the person who testifies in committee about the importance of a program in their life and later meet the governor.

Sometimes armed with my facts and figures, I get to step back and marvel at the fortitude of CCH leaders as they share intimate details of their lives, hoping that their story breaks through with the legislator. Electeds often take that moment, listen and feel moved to act not only for the sake of the person standing in front of them, but for others in their communities.  That is systemic change. I am extremely grateful to do this work, in this space, with amazing people who advocate in ways that I regard with the highest esteem. I know that in working beside them that we will one day reach our goal of ending homelessness.