Mayra knows a little help can go a long way

Mayra Fajardo, a Latinx woman in her 20s, poses in front of the Chicago River, a big smile on her face. She is wearing a white blouse. Banner text reads: Mayra knows a little help can go a long way.

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. 

Continue reading Mayra knows a little help can go a long way

Back to school without a place to call home

Last week marked the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year for Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Suburban school districts also started school in recent weeks. After the difficulties and barriers families and students faced over the last two years due to the pandemic, it is more important than ever for schools to identify and support students experiencing homelessness. 

Continue reading Back to school without a place to call home

CCH awards college scholarships to six first-year students, celebrates seven recent graduates

Six Chicago area high school graduates have won a CCH college scholarship to support them in their higher education journeys. They were celebrated at a luncheon with CCH staff, selection committee members, and limited guests on July 28. 

CCH’s annual award of $3,500 is renewable for up to five years as students work to complete a bachelor’s or associate degree. All first-year winners also received new laptops, made possible with a grant from long-time partner, The Osa Foundation.

Twenty undergraduate students will be supported by the CCH college scholarship program during the 2022 – 2023 school year, including six first-years, six sophomores, three juniors, and five seniors. They are attending colleges and universities in California, Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Georgia and Washington, D.C.

Continue reading CCH awards college scholarships to six first-year students, celebrates seven recent graduates

Hotel Toledo: Eviction Avoided

In April of 2022, CCH learned that the owner of Hotel Toledo, a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel located at 6219 S. Ashland Avenue, in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood had set in motion a process to evict every tenant living in the hotel, giving the tenants until April 30th to vacate the building with all their possessions. The only notice that tenants received was the notice posted at the hotel.  

Notice posted to residents informing them that the Hotel Toledo was no longer open for residence.

Many of the tenants facing eviction had been faithfully paying their rent prior to this eviction process being implemented by the Owner. The hotel was a long-term residence for most of the tenants – many of them had lived at Hotel Toledo for years. In addition, many of the tenants experienced homelessness prior to living at the Hotel Toledo. 

The Law Project’s Case and Street Outreach Worker, Ali Simmons, it’s Director, Patricia Nix-Hodes, and Senior Attorney Arturo Hernandez, along with Nick Jefferson of CCH’s Organizing Department, immediately got involved. A meeting was held with approximately 13 of the tenants to determine exactly what was going on, and what the tenants wanted to do in response to the Owner’s actions to evict them.  

During this meeting, the tenants overwhelmingly expressed that they wanted to stay at the hotel (which is also an SRO). After the meeting, CCH delivered a letter to the owner advising that the planned eviction was unlawful and violated the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance and the Chicago Single Room Occupancy Preservation Ordinance. 

CCH reached out to Lawyers Committee for Better Housing who agreed to represent one of the tenants in a court proceeding to have a temporary restraining order issued against the owner to stop the eviction.

Notice of Eviction delivered to each tenant in the building.

CCH also reached out to City officials who also advised the owner that the eviction was unlawful and pursued legal action against the owner. These combined efforts were successful in stopping the owner’s attempt to illegally evict the tenants. The hotel was placed under a receivership which allows the hotel to remain open and the individuals living there. The illegal eviction notices were taken down, replaced with new notices advising tenants that they could stay.

 CCH continues to work with and advocate for the tenants to ensure that they understand their rights going forward. In the continued conversation CCH learned that the tenants believed that Hotel Toledo, while not an ideal place to live, was stable enough until they could secure permanent housing. This is an example of how important affordable housing is, and Bring Chicago Home is the beginning of the answer! With more done to address homelessness, and the creation of more affordable housing, individuals will have viable options for housing that do not exist for them right now.   

Chicago Latina Files Lawsuit Challenging False Arrest By Chicago Police

CHICAGO – A Chicago police officer’s obscene verbal tirade escalated into the officer’s physical assault and false arrest of a Chicago woman in June 2020, according to a federal lawsuit filed today. Chicago police are accused of unlawfully arresting Julie Campos, a Southside Latina resident—who was 19 years old at the time—at her place of employment, a Family Dollar store located on East 79th Street. The ACLU of Illinois (“ACLU”), the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (“CCH”), and the law firm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP are representing Ms. Campos in the lawsuit challenging false arrest. 
 
Ms. Campos was working at the store on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, cleaning up property damage that had occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The lawsuit asserts that, after Ms. Campos videoed the officer who physically assaulted her, Ms. Campos was falsely arrested on a trumped-up charge and unlawfully detained for hours—separated from her infant son. 

White text in all caps on a blue gradient background reads "Julie Campos v. City Of Chicago, Eric Taylor, and Treacher Howard" Center below text is the CCH Logo, a cartoon person crouched in a white house, to the right of logo reads " Law Project, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless". Lawsuit Challenges False Arrest.

“I was confused and scared throughout this entire experience,” said Ms. Campos. “It was shocking that just getting up and going to work could result in being arrested.” 

“The body cam and other video of this incident show a CPD officer completely out of control. The City never should have allowed this officer onto the street,” said Joshua Levin, staff attorney for the ACLU. The officer has a lengthy history of civilian complaints, but never had been adequately disciplined or retrained by the Chicago Police Department. 

Arturo Hernandez, a senior attorney at CCH, stated, “Ms. Campos, a young mother who was experiencing housing instability at the time, was at work trying to provide for her family when she endured this horrific experience at the hands of Chicago Police officers. This should not happen to anyone. If CPD doesn’t take action to adequately train their officers, or adequately discipline officers who engage in misconduct like the officers in this case—how will relations between the community and the police change?” 

The officers’ body camera video shows CPD Officers Eric Taylor and Treacher Howard pulled into the store parking lot where employees were busy cleaning up so that the business could reopen to serve the community. Ms. Campos was making repeated trips in and out of the back entrance to throw out trash from the damaged store. 

Content Warning: the following may be uncomfortable for some viewers. Jump to 10:30 for interaction.

While in the store parking lot, Officer Taylor instigated a shouting match with one of Ms. Campos’ coworkers. Officer Taylor made vulgar sexual comments about the employee’s mother and oral sex, using racist epithets. 

“Officer Taylor’s dehumanizing language—and his completely unnecessary escalation of conflict with this community member—is maddening to watch,” Levin added. “These Chicagoans were at work just doing their jobs.” 

After Officer Taylor’s argument with the employee, Ms. Campos continued cleaning the store. As she was carrying boxes through the store doorway to the dumpster, Ms. Campos came face-to-face with Officer Taylor, who was charging inside. Unbeknownst to Ms. Campos, Officer Taylor was looking to arrest Ms. Campos’ coworker, with whom he had instigated the earlier argument. Frightened by the officer coming toward her, Ms. Campos momentarily froze. Officer Taylor said “step back, step back,” then grabbed Ms. Campos, forcibly shoved her, and struck her face. As Ms. Campos fell backward, Officer Taylor, his partner Officer Howard, and other CPD officers entered the store. No one checked to see if Ms. Campos had been injured.  

As Officer Taylor stomped through the store, Ms. Campos pulled out her phone and began recording him and saying that he had punched her. Although Ms. Campos had a First Amendment right to record Officer Taylor and criticize his misconduct, Officer Taylor approached her, twisted her arms—forcing her to stop recording—and placed her under arrest for purportedly obstructing a police officer. 

“There was no legal basis whatsoever to arrest Ms. Campos for ‘obstructing an officer’; this was a blatant violation of Ms. Campos’s constitutional rights,” the ACLU’s Levin explained.    

Ms. Campos was taken to a CPD station, where she was detained and physically restrained for nearly five hours. While holding Ms. Campos in custody, Officers Taylor and Howard refused to tell her when she would be released and when she would be able to see her one-year-old son again. Defendant Taylor even taunted Ms. Campos about her inability to contact her child or her child’s daycare while in custody. 

Months later, the false charge against Ms. Campos was dropped.  

“My hope is that this lawsuit will help make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said Ms. Campos. “I’m concerned that something like this could happen to me again. But I’m more afraid for when my Latino son grows up. I’m afraid for what could happen to him if we continue to have police officers like Officer Taylor patrolling this city.” 

“Not only was Ms. Campos arrested and detained when she did not do anything wrong, but the officers lied on the police reports. They fabricated information to cover up the false arrest—a widespread practice CPD officers use to conceal misconduct,” said Levin. 

“This sort of behavior by CPD officers is the antithesis of public safety and constitutional policing,” Levin added. “And the City is directly responsible because it fails to adequately train, supervise, and discipline officers like Taylor who have egregious records of misconduct.” Officer Taylor has racked up more civilian complaints than 93% of other officers. Levin explained: “This case exemplifies the City’s systemic failure to take abusive officers off the streets.” 

###

If you or someone you know is in a transitory living situation and needs legal support the Law Project can be reached weekdays on its toll-free helpline:  1 (800) 940-1119.

Related Media Coverage:

Video of Police Cam footage: https://youtu.be/rCNyyBjFeoI

Tribune

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-aclu-lawsuit-chicago-police-arrest-20220526-ywksug2l75gwxg34eulugt2uoe-story.html   

Sun Times 

https://chicago.suntimes.com/2022/5/26/23143373/federal-suit-alleges-cpd-officer-struck-falsely-arrested-woman-recording-misconduct-2020

Univision Chicago

https://www.univision.com/local/chicago-wgbo/hispana-presenta-demanda-contra-policia-de-chicago-por-falso-arresto-y-agresion

Learn about our recent victories in our 2021 Annual Report

CCH grassroots leaders and staff, clad in bright yellow CCH t-shirts, standing with fists raised in front of the Illinois state capitol building. Text includes the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless logo and the words 2021 Annual Report.

We are grateful for the strong coalition of people with lived experience, community members, direct-service and advocacy organizations, institutional partners, donors, and volunteers who are working every single day to prevent and end homelessness.

Five blocks in a row. Block 1: Photo of a young woman wearing a hijab, standing, speaking to a Black woman in a trucker hat, seated. Block 2: Blue square that reads: 3,000 people who experienced homelessness were reached by our community organizers and legal aid attorneys. Block 3: photo of a white man speaking to a crowd with a bullhorn. The man is wearing a yellow t-shirt with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless logo. Block 4: Blue square that reads: 408 legal aid cases were closed by the Law Project, representing 319 clients. Block 5: two young women with brown hair from behind, seated in front of a laptop.

Strong community support contributed to CCH’s many accomplishments over the last year. Read more about our shared victories during Calendar Year 2021 in our annual report.

Blue box with white letters: Read our annual report now

Have a cannabis conviction in Illinois? You may be eligible for expungement. 

By Arturo Hernandez, Senior Attorney 

By now, many people are probably aware that recreational cannabis use is legal in Illinois. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) legalized the use of recreational cannabis beginning January 1, 2020. The Act also established new ways for people with cannabis-related records to clear their records and work in the cannabis industry.  

New Leaf Illinois logo with quote from client: "I was so apprehensive about my future because of my legal record. But after talking with New Leaf, I got the info and motivation to move forward	 and put it behind me.” – New Leaf Client.

Cannabis Expungement 

The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless provides free legal representation to those wishing to expunge their records as a proud partner in New Leaf Illinois.   

New Leaf Illinois is a statewide network of legal aid organizations that provide services to assist individuals with expunging their cannabis records and other legal services.  

For questions about expunging cannabis records or to see if you may be eligible, visit the New Leaf Illinois website or call the New Leaf Illinois hotline at (855) 963-9532.

Continue reading Have a cannabis conviction in Illinois? You may be eligible for expungement. 

Staff Attorney

Job Description

The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is seeking a mid-level Staff Attorney to join our Law Project team to advocate for people experiencing homelessness in Illinois through both direct representation and policy advocacy in the areas of civil rights and public benefits and to work to advance racial equity. 

Reasonable accommodations will be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. 

About CCH  

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is a 42-year-old systemic advocacy organization. CCH develops campaigns and initiatives to address the causes of homelessness – lack of affordable housing, lack of access to health care and services and lack of jobs paying a living wage. We place much emphasis on organizing and developing leaders who have experienced homelessness to become spokespersons and leaders of our various initiatives. CCH does its work in accordance with its organizational values – collaboration, integrity, strategic action, compassion, and intersectionality. We recognize that homelessness is a problem that stems from systemic racism and that biases and prejudices are embedded in the fabric of society, and thus, also permeate organizations like ours. CCH is committed to advancing racial equity in the workplace, through the work of our racial equity committee, and through the campaigns and initiatives we choose. 

Job Responsibilities  

  • Provide civil legal services to people experiencing homelessness. Areas of focus include civil rights and public benefits, including Social Security hearings.  Other areas of law may include access to identification documents, housing and criminal law. 
  • Conduct regular legal clinics and community outreach to unsheltered communities and through the Law Project’s Youth Futures Mobile Legal Clinic at various shelters and drop-in centers, schools, health centers and other community locations serving youth ages 14-24.  
  • Participate in the Law Project’s impact litigation to address systemic issues and barriers to people experiencing homelessness, including civil rights cases. 
  • Participate in local and state-level coalitions and campaigns to promote policies and laws to protect the rights of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness and to reduce barriers to accessing health care and public benefits for homeless youth and adults.  
  • Assist Law Project staff on other projects as needed.   
  • Develop and conduct trainings for attorneys and other professionals on civil rights, public benefits, health care and other legal rights of people experiencing homelessness. 
  • Collaborate with the Law Project’s Public Benefits Specialist in public benefits cases. 
  • Supervision of law student and social work student interns, possible future supervision opportunities 
  • Work in collaboration with all CCH departments—CCH believes strongly in interdepartmental collaboration and expects all staff to work in close partnership with the other departments at the organization. 

Qualifications/Skills  

Required:  

  • J.D. degree and currently licensed or eligible to waive in to practice law in Illinois   
  • Mid-level legal experience in a legal aid organization or other setting providing direct representation 
  • Experience and an interest in civil rights, public benefits and health law and policy, and/or criminal law.  In addition to professional experience in these areas, experience can include personal experience with homelessness, poverty and other issues affecting our clients.  
  •  Experience working with individuals from a wide range of backgrounds   
  •  Experience working in communities impacted by poverty and a desire to spend a significant amount of time out in the community providing legal services and engaging in outreach  
  • Ability to work collaboratively in a team environment and work to advance racial equity  
  • Self-direction and self-motivation and the ability to work independently  
  • Demonstrated strong research and writing skills 

Preferred: 

  • Experience representing individuals in administrative hearings or in litigation  
  • Experience and interest in criminal law 
  • Experience working with young people ages 14 to 24-years-old   
  • Valid driver’s license 

Salary range

$60,000 to 72,000 based on experience, highly competitive benefits package, including health insurance (90% of premium paid by organization), four weeks of paid vacation, sabbatical program and student loan repayment assistance program and more. 

To Apply

Please send resume, cover letter, references and writing sample to Patricia Nix-Hodes at lawproject@chicagohomeless.org


Chicago Coalition for the Homeless believes that personnel diversity is an organizational strength and recognizes and values the intersectional identities that staff members bring to our organization. We are enriched by the diverse experiences, beliefs, and ways of thinking that employees of different backgrounds bring.  

People of color and people who have experienced homelessness or poverty are strongly encouraged to apply. Fair consideration is given to all qualified applicants regardless of criminal record. CCH is committed to providing equal employment consideration without discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, national origin, ancestry, military status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other legally protected status.  

Where to turn for help when temperatures drop

Chicagoans should call 3-1-1 if they need weather-related assistance in frigid winter weather, including access to homeless shelters or city warming centers.

Six neighborhood warming centerslisted below, are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays whenever temperatures go below 32 degrees. All residents can find safe refuge and relief from extreme cold weather at these locations.

  • Englewood Community Service Center
    1140 West 79th Street
  • Garfield Community Service Center
    10 South Kedzie Avenue
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Community Service Center
    4314 South Cottage Grove
  • North Area Community Service Center
    845 West Wilson Avenue
  • South Chicago Community Service Center
    8650 South Commercial Avenue
  • Trina Davila Community Service Center
    4312 West North Avenue
Continue reading Where to turn for help when temperatures drop

Daihana shares her story, resolved to help others

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. 

Continue reading Daihana shares her story, resolved to help others