Nia Hill wants you to know that the West Side of Chicago has great people who do great things. Born and raised in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, she also understands first-hand the barriers that residents in these systemically marginalized communities face.
“A quick Google search tells you what you want to know,” said Nia on where she grew up, noting the prevalence of violence and poverty caused by institutional racism.
Nia’s family experienced homelessness when she was in high school after losing their Section 8 voucher. They “bounced around a lot” – staying with an aunt, people from church, and hotels before eventually settling into stable housing.
“It was a humbling experience,” she recalls, “learning how to do without a place you would normally consider home.”
Mayra Fajardo recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She earned a double major in psychology and criminology/law, with a double minor in history and Spanish. Having navigated high school and college as an unaccompanied student, Mayra is passionate about using her skills and experiences to help others.
Born and raised in Chicago, Mayra moved with her family to Ecuador at 15. A year later, she made the difficult decision to return to Chicago alone to pursue better educational opportunities. Her goal? To provide hope and support for her mother and younger sister.
Daihana Estrada, a recent graduate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, is no stranger to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. In fact, she has been involved with CCH for more than a decade, as a scholarship winner, an intern, an advocate, and a member of the scholarship selection committee.
She also recently raised $1,890 for CCH through an online fundraiser, garnering support from 65 people from around the world.
Today, Daihana is a first-year attorney, working as a judicial law clerk in Minnesota. Hers is a journey more than 12 years in the making.
The number of students identified as homeless in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) declined 34% since the 2018-19 school year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and school districts nationwide faced unprecedented challenges. School districts, including CPS, implemented remote, hybrid, and in-person learning models as COVID-19 cases and deaths ravaged communities, hitting communities of color especially hard. In CPS, it was particularly challenging for schools to identify and serve students experiencing homelessness.