Connections for the Homeless believes that communities thrive only when all residents have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We work in northern Cook County, catalyzing our community to end homelessness, one person at a time.
As the advocacy coalition formed by Connections for the Homeless, Joining Forces for Affordable Housing advocates for affordable housing solutions by partnering with organizations and individuals that support people in need in North Suburban Cook County and the north side of Chicago.
- We engage human services agencies, other organizations, and individuals to mobilize people within their spheres of influence to take action.
- We build on research and advocacy efforts that already exist—helping to expand their reach and their impact through our membership.
- We provide opportunities for individuals and organizations to learn about affordable housing and participate in advocacy at multiple levels.
- We seek to build awareness and support for affordable housing to pave the way for change.
Our Advocacy PositionsWe take a broad approach to building wellbeing and support people as they weather the storms that life can bring to any of us. Central to wellbeing is the ability to obtain housing that is safe, stable and affordable. Beyond that, everyone in the community needs access to quality education, training and healthcare. Thus, we advocate for the following:
Where We Focus Our Advocacy Efforts
- Increasing the number of affordable housing units, in the communities we serve, through construction, preservation, subsidies, and innovative solutions that remove barriers to affordability
- Ensuring that community members:
- Have sufficient income to support the housing that is available
- Have access to the education and training necessary to increase their income
- Have access to quality, affordable mental and physical health care
Spending more than 30% of income on housing costs puts households at risk for homelessness. Severely cost-burdened households, those spending more than 50% of their income on housing costs, are at even higher risk. These risks are greatly exacerbated when the household income is very or extremely low (defined as making less than 50% or 30% of the area median income (AMI)). Thus, we focus most of our advocacy work on increasing affordability for community members who fall into those low-income categories.
Besides being at risk of homelessness, households paying more than they can afford for their housing suffer in other ways. Their wellbeing suffers when they cannot pay for basic necessities such as healthy foods or medical care, when they have prolonged stress, when they have to work more and more hours just to make ends meet. Because of these hardships, they cannot be at their best. They cannot reach their full potential as employees, parents, community members.
The cost of unaffordable housing affects not only the people who can’t afford the housing, but our community, which needs each person to be the best that they can be.Solutions We Support
Who We Are
- Preservation of funding for affordable housing facilities and programs (including subsidies) that is currently provided through public funding sources such as HUD (CDBG, HOME, ESG), the State of Illinois, Cook County, the City of Evanston, and other municipalities
- Development of new affordable housing solutions (including subsidies) through private, public, and combined sources
- Efforts to make inclusionary housing ordinances as impactful as possible by ensuring the ordinances are as strong as possible, and by negotiating for on-site inclusion of affordable units in new developments (as opposed to cash payments in lieu of building).
- Development and use of funding to provide direct assistance to households in danger of eviction or other loss of housing (homeless prevention)
- Location of affordable housing throughout the community, which provides all community members the opportunity to experience the benefits of diversity and inclusion
- Revisions to zoning ordinances that restrict uses of buildings in ways that limit their usefulness as affordable housing (e.g., limiting the number of unrelated persons who can co-habit in a dwelling, prohibiting ancillary structures to be used for housing purposes, etc.)
- Legislation that will increase overall household income for low-wage workers
We are a coalition of human services, religious, and other organizations, as well as individuals, advocating for more affordable housing. Joining Forces is staffed by Connections for the Homeless under the oversight of a Steering Committee that includes the following members:
- Birch Burghardt, Interfaith Action of Evanston
- Sarah Delgado, Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance
- Sharon Legenza, Housing Action Illinois
- Jennifer O’Neil, League of Woman Voters
- Mark Tendam, Connections for the Homeless
- Adrian Willoughby, Reba Place Development Corporation
- Bonnie Wilson, Age-Friendly Evanston
Staff: Sue Loellbach, Connections for the Homeless