Twenty years of legal aid and advocacy by the Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless were celebrated at a Justice Circle event, held March 2 at Chez-Chicago.
Law Project founding director Rene Heybach was honored, along with the Kirkland & Ellis law firm for years of pro bono and grant support, and Marilyn Escoe, a parent leader on the CCH Education Committee.
Rebuilding your life after a setback takes determination. For Temperance Thomas, it helps to be open about what she’s been through.
“You got to tell your story or you’ll never get over it. I’m learning to do that,” she says.
With a family to raise, Temperance is determined to move forward. In two years, she has completed culinary training, found a new job, and joined the Reentry Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
Four years after graduating, Jayme Robinson is back at Schurz High School, helping students who are homeless like she was.
Jayme, 22, works for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless as an AmeriCorps VISTA organizer. One of her projects is to mentor homeless students, including teens at her alma mater on the Northwest Side. Along with group meetings, Jayme talks one-on-one with teens about their lives and plans for the future.
Taishi Neuman wanted to help other families coping with homelessness. First homeless herself at age 15, she experienced homelessness again after multiple sclerosis left her unable to continue work as a nursing home assistant.
Still, Taishi thought she was too quiet to speak up.
Associate Director of the Law Project and Youth Attorney
Now that spring has arrived, students in Illinois look forward to special school activities, including graduation, senior luncheons and end-of-the year field trips.
Every year the Law Project receives many calls from low-income students and families who are being pressured by their schools to pay hundreds of dollars in fees before graduation or year-end.
Who’s eligible to apply? Graduating seniors from Chicago and suburban schools who were homeless at some point while attending high school, as verified by the student’s school. This includes unaccompanied youth who were living on their own without a parent or guardian. Youth leaders active with CCH also are eligible.
Ashley Crump and her children have lived the past few months in a South Side shelter. It isn’t easy, but it’s help the family needs and appreciates.
Because her home healthcare employer failed to pay its staff for weeks, Ashley needs a new job. Having worked full-time since high school, Ashley hopes her job hunt will work out soon. Still, she’s unsure when her family can move back into a home of their own.
“We had a place, but it was difficult to pay all the bills and for food. About 60 percent of my wages went for rent,” she explains.
Knowing what low-income families face, Ashley says she “jumped on board” to volunteer with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Ashley learned about CCH when she met Wayne Richard, one of our long-time organizers, during an outreach session at the shelter.
Aja Lowrey is devoted to a mom who made her the priority, especially when things got tough – homeless tough.
The second time they were homeless was emotionally difficult for Aja, then a junior at Chicago’s Walter Payton College Prep. At her mom’s insistence, Aja stayed with family friends with a spare bed to offer. Her mom stayed in shelters.
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) has awarded $2,500-a-year college scholarships to five students who succeeded in high school while coping with homelessness.
Also commended were 13 past winners, rising sophomores, juniors and seniors, who also receive $2,500 renewal awards. Thanks to donors who fund these scholarships, through the 2015-16 year, CCH will have awarded more than $235,000 to 50 students since 2004.
Homeless and low-income students in Illinois qualify to have public school fees waived. If waived, a fee is not charged and the student does not owe fees to the school.
Yet every year, the Law Project gets calls from students and parents whose public school is pressing them to pay fees before graduation and the end of the school year.
A student or parent must file a written request to have fees waived. If a student qualifies for a fee waiver, school officials cannot bar a student from attending prom or graduation or obtaining transcripts – though some students who call for help have been incorrectly told this will happen if they do not pay.