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Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

November 26, 2013

Once a teen with no home 

During National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, CCH staff, interns and volunteers wrote about what inspires their work. This is an essay by CCH Law Intern Diane O'Connell.

As a teenager who left home at age 16, I spent several years in unstable living situations, on and off of the street. Looking back on the nights when I had no place to stay, there are two things that stick out to me about what it meant to be homeless: not having a place to live, and not having a home. Not having a place to live was hard. It meant that there were nights when I was willing to go home with men I didn’t know in order not to be on the street. It meant not having a place to shower, the embarrassment of being kicked out of public spaces, and the fear of being harmed while sleeping, or being picked up by the police.

But worse than being outside was not having a home — the deep loneliness that came with not belonging anywhere. Maybe even more than a bed to sleep in, human beings, and especially young people, need to have structure and stability. They need the satisfaction and safety of a place to go at the end of the day, of the warmth and comfort of a family or a pet or a pillow. Without basic shelter and security, it’s almost impossible to be productive or successful.  It’s because having a home is essential to the well-being of all people that I believe housing is a human right. Read More

CCH & Hesed House organize Aurora’s new Faith and Justice Alliance for the Homeless 

Ten churches, community groups and schools from Aurora attended the first meet-and-greet of the Faith and Justice Alliance for the Homeless, a new group mobilized by CCH’s Statewide Network.

The Faith and Justice Alliance seeks to impact root causes of homelessness in Aurora through education and advocacy.

The group is organized by Jim Picchetti, organizer of CCH’s 9-city Statewide Network, and Barb Thurlby, director of volunteers at Aurora’s Hesed House, an emergency and transitional homeless shelter. Since May, they’ve met monthly with members of Holy Spirit Catholic Community and Our Lady of Good Counsel to organize the new alliance. 

As one of its first initiatives, the group plans to collect 1,000 letters of support at local churches, schools, and civic groups urging Gov. Pat Quinn to restore $3 million in state grants from program serving homeless students. Last school year, 51,638 homeless students were identified in Illinois. Outside of Chicago, Aurora’s Kane County has the state’s fifth largest enrollment of homeless students, 694. Read More

Ignatian Spirituality Project honors its co-founder, CCH Executive Director Ed Shurna 

All of us at CCH are pleased to report that the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP) honored CCH Executive Director Edward Shurna at it’s Company of Grace event on November 10.

ISP celebrated Ed’s work as co-founder of a program that offers spiritual retreats to homeless people seeking recovery. Growing over its 15 years, ISP now staffs retreat teams in 12 cities, from San Francisco to Boston.

Senior Community Organizer Wayne Richard, who helped present the award, also serves as ISP Men’s Witness Coordinator. He has worked for the program for more than 10 years.

Ed has organized for 45 years in Chicago’s neighborhoods. His work includes 17 years with CCH, first as its director of community organizing and, since 2003, as executive director. Read More

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Be nice, because everyone has a story to tell

During National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, CCH staff, interns and volunteers wrote about what inspires their work. This is an essay by CCH Organizing Intern Sylvia Hibbard.

We all have a story, and it is those stories that define who we are and what opportunities we have been given throughout our lives. My story follows a path that is very similar to the one many of the people who experience homelessness have. I grew up in a broken home, surrounded by addiction and abuse. I also experienced short periods of homelessness, but I also had many advantages provided to me by the way the systems are set up around us.

Growing up in Germany I had a safety net that prevented me from slipping into long-term homelessness. This safety net came in form of my extended family who picked me up and gave me the emotional support I needed. It also came in form of a government that provided me with free education and affordable healthcare. And it came from a society that valued its members so that minimum wage would be enough for someone to afford their basic needs. Read More