Bring Chicago Home campaign urges alderman to support homelessness proposal
About 50 to 60 members of the Bring Chicago Home coalition marched to Ald’s office. Jason Ervin (28)e), located inside the JLM Abundant Life Center, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd. in East Garfield Park on July 18, urging him to support an ordinance that would create a dedicated funding stream for homelessness prevention.
Over the past few years, the coalition, made up of affordable housing providers, social service agencies and unions, has urged the city to increase the real estate transfer tax for properties worth more than $1 million. dollars to fund initiatives to address homelessness.
The coalition has tried to enlist the support of all the aldermen on the West Side, but they are particularly interested in Ervin’s support because he chairs the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus, and they hope his support will win over skeptical black aldermen to join them. But Ervin had previously refused to support the ordinance unless it also funded what he believed to be more pressing priorities in his neighborhood, namely violence prevention, workforce development and youth services.
During the rally, activists argued that homelessness is one of the contributing factors to violence, and that addressing it would reduce violence and some of the other issues affecting his neighborhood. But Ervin remained impassive, saying that unless the order also included funding for his priorities, he would not support it. Activists said they would still try to persuade Ervin, saying they harbored no ill will and were still willing to work with him.
Some of the things tax revenue could fund would include building more affordable housing, subsidizing rents, and providing mental health and job placement services. According to state law, the tax rate can only be increased if voters approve it in a referendum. The coalition is backing a Chicago City Council resolution to put the question on the November 8 general election ballot.
The Bring Chicago Ordinance Home currently has 18 co-sponsors, including Ald. Emma Mittens (37e) and Ald. Walter Burnett (27e). He also enjoys the support of several other members of the Black Caucus.
Protesters approached the JLM Center around 5 p.m. chanting, “Hey Ervin, can you hear us, can you hear the human spirit” and “Housing is a human right – Ervin, please , do what is right”, and asked the alderman to meet them. Ervin did not respond at first, so activists made speeches at the entrance to the center.
Activist Harry Williams said as a formerly homeless person he knows firsthand that “violence, violence prevention and homelessness go hand in hand”.
“You can’t separate the two,” he said
Amiin Musaddiq, an imam of Austin’s Masjid al-Mu’un, 5607 W. Chicago Ave., appealed directly to Ervin.
“We’re asking you to bring Chicago home, not with words, but with actions,” he said. “We are here today to ask you, sincerely, with grace in our hearts, that you bring the things that we need.
Mia Sostrin explained how a difficult family situation led her to stay with friends on the West Side, where she saw firsthand the disparities the community faced, mentioning the lack of grocery stores. But she also described the cascading effects of not having a home of her own on her mental health.
“My grades suffered, my mental health suffered a lot,” Sostrin said.
About half an hour into the protest, word got around that Ervin would meet the group at 6 p.m. The majority of protesters made their way to nearby 574 Park, 2540 W. Jackson Blvd., for shade, only for Ervin to emerge. a few minutes later.
As protesters rushed to the center, Ervin said that while ending homelessness was important, it wasn’t one of the top concerns he was hearing from his constituents.
“I’m not saying ending homelessness isn’t important, but on the scale of things, it’s not very high on the scale,” Ervin said.
He said he would be in favor of raising the REIT which would fund his priority. Ervin suggested lowering the increase threshold to $500,000 for transactions, so expanding the scope would not affect the amount of funds spent on homelessness.
“We need to expand the uses of the money and we need to lower the threshold, so you don’t take anything out of your money,” he said. “When the law changes, I will be there. I’m open to working with people, but they have to work with me.
After some back and forth, it became clear that Ervin wouldn’t be emotional about it, and the protesters left.
In the post-meeting interview, activist Myron Byrd, who grew up in Austin and was homeless in the past, said the coalition planned to continue because, given Ervin’s position in the Black Caucus, “he’s going to help drive this.
“With him, we will continue to press for him to sponsor us,” he said. “We want to work with him, bring Chicago home and bring [the funding] to the community, because the community is lacking. It is time.”
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