Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Requests a Vote on Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless were at the City Council Meeting held on Nov. 3, 2010. They were hoping the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance would come to a vote and discharge a committee that day. But many were disappointed when the vote was stalled.

Julie Dworkin, the director of policy said that the Coalition made an agreement to wait because the city had an alternative for them.  She said if the coalition did not receive a copy of the alternative ordinance by Nov. 10, the city was required vote on the original ordinance by Nov. 15.

“It’s better because we now have a commitment for a voting committee,” said Dworkin.

Sweet Home Chicago is an affordable housing campaign led by a coalition of nine community organizations and three labor unions. They are advocating that 20 percent of Chicago’s tax increment financing (TIF) funds be dedicated to affordable housing.

Since 1980, the Homeless Coalition has sported the slogan, organizing and advocating to prevent and end homelessness because housing is a human right in a just society.”

Members of the twelve coalitions attended the Nov. 3 meeting in which Daley was present. They came in huge groups sporting their red “Sweet Home Chicago” shirts. Many of them were taken to the third floor to view the proceedings behind a glass window.  They were directed to sit down or lean against the back wall by police officers monitoring the floor. Due to a speaker issue, the sound did not come through to the third floor until the last five minutes of the meeting.

Not all of the red-shirt attendees were there for the same purpose. Some of them had been recruited by group leaders from the organizations. Many of them admitted to not knowing why they were there.  Chorus Mitchum of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council was at the meeting hoping to get the alleged three alderman back into their appointed office who had recently dropped out.

“I hope they get the alderman back,” he said. “There were 26, now there’s 23.”

After the Meeting ended, red-shirt attendees gathered near the back entrance of City Hall to hear an announcement from group leaders. Members were diverse, comprising the elderly, mothers with children and men of all ages. Community leaders gave their explanation to the crowd as to why the city was not going to vote on the bill that day. They explained that if city council members did not come to an agreement by Nov. 10, the Homeless Coalition would construct their own ordinance.

Chanting echoed through the first floor of City Hall as the group leaders recited: “What do we want?”

The attendees chanted,” Affordable housing!”

“When do we want it?”

“Right now!”

According to Diane Limas of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, there were two committees, Alderman Ray Suarez of the 31st Ward and Alderman Ed Burke of the 14th Ward that were presumed to vote to discharge the ordinance. She said she was disappointed that City Council didn’t vote on the ordinance.

“It was just a stalling technique,” she said. “They’re holding our ordinance in hostage.”

On Nov. 15, the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance passed by a vote of 13-8. City officials voted in an alternative ordinance, changing the original 20 percent that was asked for by the Homeless Coalition to proposing that TIF funding beconsidered when the city makes a Five-Year Affordable Housing plan, but it made no commitment of dollars.

Rachael J. Turski, Contributing Reporter