Advertisements ad

CCHD strives to break the cycle of poverty in Chicago


Author Title

Chords bursting with soul reverberated throughout the church as the gospel choir belted, “I’m going home to live with God.”

It was those without homes and other necessities that brought people together for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development grant awards ceremony at Old St. Mary’s Church on Sept. 20. Collectively, $533,000 was given to 21 different organizations working to end poverty and homelessness in Chicago.

Among the organizations that received a grant was the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. George Huff Sr., a volunteer in his seventh year with the coalition, was once one of the homeless who benefited from its help.

“Having been in their place myself makes me more passionate about my work there,” Huff said. “I don’t want them to go through what I did. I see myself in them. I see it in their faces—the degradation of not having a place to call their own.”

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is, in fact, a project staffed entirely by formerly homeless men and women. Because of it, Huff has been able to earn a degree in addictions counseling, become a deacon at Victory through Holiness church, and also work as a motivational speaker.

“Within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life,“ said Cardinal George, citing Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.“

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development strives to facilitate a dignified life for as many as possible by working in the areas of immigration, housing, and education.

Marianne Plummer, a worker with the group Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), strives to maintain dignity for children in Chicago schools.

“We need to keep these kids from going from the school yards to the prison yards,” Plummer said. “They’re tapping into their brains, ‘You are a criminal, and you will remain a criminal.’”

COFI works to get parents involved in committees to form better rules, in order to bring down numbers like those from 2002- 2003, when 29,700 children were suspended in Chicago Public Schools, an average of 266 a day.

Elena Segura, the archdiocese’s CCHD director, sees the campaign’s work in supporting these and other groups as a way to live the Scriptures’ message, to “bring the kingdom of God into our community.”

As Lisette Rodriguez of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association asserted, the Gospel message may be age-old, but its call to fight for justice resounds today.

“We are not fighting for anything revolutionary,” Rodriguez said. “We know we are all created equal in the eyes of the Lord. We are just trying to make sure that no one—no one—forgets that.”