This advocacy spotlight is focused on Kimberly Holmes-Ross, the Community Engagement Director/ Interim Executive Director at Evanston Cradle to Career. She is a third-generation Evanstonian who was born and raised in the 5th ward. Then, after traveling around the country, she came back and settled in the 2nd ward to raise her family. Like many people who live in Evanston, she has a strong connection to the community and recognizes all that the city has to offer its citizens.
Kimberly’s first professional position was as a Vocational Education Trainer at Family Focus, where she worked for almost 18 years with their Teen Cuisine program, where teen parents were able earn their GEDs and sanitation certificates from Oakton Community College. After this, Kimberly worked at Orr High School in west Chicago for a decade, continuing to help teen parents finish high school and have more opportunities after graduating. Then, in 2018, she became the Community Engagement Director at Evanston Cradle to Career, where she trains residents in the community to become leaders by providing resources, opportunities, and platforms all while empowering them to advocate for themselves and their community.
Kimberly’s work with teen parents and their families is how she first became involved/interested in affordable housing. Teen parents are so often at risk of homelessness and eviction. She said that “when helping any person, you have to be the resource for them, as well as connect them to resources.” Teens, particularly those with children, often lack the right resources to get an education and find work, so Kimberly has been a resource that has helped teens move off the road to long-term homelessness. In fact, one of the advocates that now works with Kimberly was once homeless and was a participant in the programs of Connections for the Homeless. However, through her work at Cradle to Career, Kimberly assisted her in connecting with resources that helped her find a job and get out of homelessness and hopelessness.
Kimberly firmly believes that individuals and families need to be helped holistically. This means that, instead of only addressing one need in isolation from other needs, people should receive help with everything needed--food, education, work, housing, etc.--in order to have a sustainable chance at getting out of homelessness and poverty. Kimberly has partnered with Connections for years and has taken part in the City’s Homeless Task Force. She is also a community partner participating in Joining Forces’ Equitable Zoning Project. Some of the Advocates she works with are focusing on the City of Evanston’s participatory budgeting process and on other affordable housing causes. Kimberly is also part of Evanston’s Here to Stay Coalition that will help prevent residents from having to leave Evanston because of its high costs.
When asked what interests her about affordable housing advocacy in particular, Kimberly said that she’s disappointed by how so many families cannot afford to live in Evanston because they get “priced out” and essentially get forced out of town. She said that “we have an obligation to help people stay in Evanston or come back to Evanston” if they were forced to leave because of how expensive the cost of living has gotten. Especially the families who have been here for generations and want to stay. In 2019, The Advocates For Action partnered with The City of Evanston where advocates were tasked to have Evanstonians who don’t normally participate in surveying, take a HUD survey. From this, they received an enormous amount of responses from citizens addressing issues with housing stability and high costs in Evanston.
When asked what the top two things to do about affordable housing in Evanston are, Kimberly said that more affordable housing needs to be created and that more people need to be informed about the processes that are involved with the creation of affordable housing, so they can be empowered to effectively advocate. When asked if Kimberly had anything else to add, she said. “I hope I can be around to see homelessness end in Evanston.”
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