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Those Who Experience Homelessness Lend A Helping Hand

Maxica Williams
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Maxica Willliams with three of her children

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has created a mutual aid fund that will give out grants of up to $500 for Illinoisans who are homeless, have been without a home or are at risk of being unsheltered.

CCH grassroots leaders – people who have experienced homelessness and work in partnership with CCH staff – run the fund and will decide what requests should be supported.

The need is particularly keen during the COVID-19 outbreak, said Maxica Williams, a member of the mutual fund’s governing committee. “Due to COVID-19, (maybe) they lost a job because they were not an essential worker. And …they can't get unemployment benefits because they were self-employed or contracted or something like that, just everything went and took a really, really bad turn.”

The application process started today and will run until 5 p.m. Friday. It's open to people across the state. Applicants can go to the CCH website www.chicagohomeless.org– until 5 p.m. on Friday. It is also possible to call to apply from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and until 5 p.m. on Friday. The number is 312 641-6148 and information can be taken in English or Spanish. If phone lines are busy, applicants can leave a message with their phone number and a CCH operator will call them back to fill out an application.

The fund is important because it gives a voice to an often under-recognized population, said,  Edrika Fulford, another grassroots leader and founding member of the Mutual Aid Committee. “Even though this is not a lot of money, it's something. This important for us. Because it just acknowledges the fact that we do exist and that … we've been historically  overlooked. We, being people with that lived experience with homelessness...  And this is a way to address that, to make a difference in the lives of somebody who may need it.”

Applicants must be at least 18 years old, or if they are an unaccompanied youth, at least 16 years old. Undocumented individuals and permanent residents are welcome to apply. No more than one grant per household will be awarded.

The fund will have up to $150,000 to distribute through funds given by the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, Homestead Affordable Development Corporation, Jay Pritzker Foundation and over 100 individual donors.

If funds remain available, a second application period will be announced. Individuals interested in supporting the fund can donate at www.chicagohomeless.org/MutualAid.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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