We fought hard for STLS supports in our 2019 contract and won STLS Advocate positions in schools with high STLS rates. In negotiations with Mayor Lightfoot’s CPS team, we continue to demand that she use part of her $4 billion in COVID relief funding to provide more housing support for our families.
Although the mayor always complains that these issues have no place at the bargaining table, our advocacy is paying off. CPS recently announced $500 mini-grants will be available to each student enrolled in the STLS program. That’s a step in the right direction of which we can be proud. These resources would not be available to families if not for our hard work. The need is critical. One in seven CPS students experience homelessness, including 26% of Black students.
Now, the work begins to ensure that every STLS student receives the grant. We need your help to enroll our families in the program by the Oct. 1 deadline.
Families can use the money to pay rent, utilities, groceries, clothing, medical expenses and other essentials — whatever they need. These grants are for each STLS student, so families will receive $500 per CHILD, not per family. Unaccompanied youth 18 years or older are also eligible. If they are under 18, they are eligible for gift cards. Undocumented families also are eligible by applying through the Chicago Public Education Fund, which will issue gift cards.
As you know, we always see lower STLS numbers in the beginning of the year. CPS received funding for 16,000 students this year, while it has enrolled only about 2,000 as of this week. We’ve seen a 30 percent decrease in STLS enrollment since pre-COVID, at the same time we know MORE families are doubled-up and housing insecure, not fewer. That makes our work today even more critical.
Please, promote the STLS program and this mini-grant application at your schools ASAP. There are many benefits to enrolling in the program, but too many eligible families are unaware of it because CPS fails to actively promote it.
Our partner, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), is hosting a webinar at 1 p.m. Monday to explain how this mini-grant program works. Please sign up for the webinar and share it with your colleagues and your school families! It also will be broadcast live on Facebook.
We will work with CCH to ensure that ALL of this money is spent before the federal Dec. 31 deadline. We are hoping that CPS will allow for 2nd and 3rd round applications. And we continue to demand the mayor devote real resources to housing support and recovery for our families.
REMEMBER: The deadline for families to apply is Oct. 1. Help your STLS families enroll today!