By Mark Brown, Columnist • Robert Rohdenburg and Robert Whited are two of the people I normally might have expected to see at the Chicago Homeless Persons Memorial [last] Tuesday evening at Old St. Patrick’s Church. The two men overcame homelessness and became eager advocates for others in their situation, finding purpose in their lives by volunteering in support of affordable housing efforts.
Unfortunately, instead of joining in the prayers this year, Rohdenburg and Whited are among the dead who [were] recognized at the annual service that seeks to honor the homeless men and women who lost their lives in the previous year.
This month Claudia Cabrera was named Special Projects Organizer, managing the work of our Speakers Bureau and a creative writing outreach program, Horizons. We asked Claudia to introduce herself: "My passion for social justice comes from my lived experience as a Latinx immigrant female and the struggles I have witnessed through my community experience. At a young age I witnessed my parents risk their lives in hopes of a better future for their children. Chasing the American dream, they left behind everything they owned and everyone they loved in Mexico."
With the 2020 Census almost here, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is helping ensure that homeless children, youth, and adults across Illinois are counted. This includes offering new CCH outreach materials aimed at informing those experiencing homelessness. As one of 42 partner organizations with Forefront’s IL Count Me In 2020 program, CCH is providing outreach and education to support a fair and accurate count among hard-to-count communities. As part of this initiative, CCH organizers and attorneys are providing census education at shelters, schools, drop-in centers, and events across Chicago in the months leading up to Census Day on April 1, 2020.
Derrick Lyons is grateful for a life and career that are on track after years of being homeless. He credits rediscovering his faith and his voice, including his volunteer work as a community leader with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless: “I thought it was the end of the road,” Derrick says of life two years ago. “I was so depressed… I took a big look at myself and thought you know what, something has to change. I started going to church, and then I joined CCH, where there are people fighting to end homelessness. That kind of encouraged me, until I started working again.”