Chicago School Health Access Collaborative Addresses Impact of Housing Instability on Students

May 30, 2024 | Written By:

Dr. Simbo Ige, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health


At the March meeting of the Chicago School Health Access Collaborative (SHAC), 50 health and education stakeholders came together to discuss how Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the city of Chicago and advocacy and community-based organizations are supporting the district’s unhoused students, including the thousands that are members of newly arrived migrant families in Chicago.

Led by Healthy Schools Campaign and the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago, SHAC brings together education and health stakeholders, along with CPS and the Chicago Department of Public Health, to identify ways to enhance student access to comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable healthcare, improve the health service delivery model for Chicago students, and elevate equity and well-being. SHAC leverages the knowledge and expertise of its members to envision a school health system that provides all students with the health and wellness services they need.

Safe and secure housing is a human right, and unstable housing can have a negative impact on the health of students. Due to a variety of factors, including rising housing costs, inflation and pandemic-related disruptions, homelessness has been on the rise across the country, particularly in large cities like Chicago.

In addition, Chicago has seen an influx of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking students. More than 5,700 newcomer students have recently enrolled in CPS, and the district and individual schools are challenged to meet the needs of those new families, especially in communities that have not traditionally had bilingual teachers and staff.

At the meeting, SHAC brought together experts including Dr. Simbo Ige, the new commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health; Alyssa Phillips, education attorney at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; Orlando Rivero, program manager of primary care services at CPS; Marcellus Summers, citywide coordinator of Students in Temporary Living Situations at CPS; and Salvador Cerna, director of community impact and special projects at La Casa Norte.

Panelists spoke about the increase in housing insecurity among CPS students and highlighted the need for better coordination of services between the district, city programs, advocacy groups and community partners. Speakers also underscored the need for stronger translation and interpretation resources; more reliable internet access for families; and greater support for individual schools serving students facing housing insecurity, including both long-time Chicago residents and newly arriving migrant families. Dr. Ige also spoke about the city’s coordinated response to the recent measles outbreak as well.

Speakers emphasized the importance of venues like SHAC for addressing complex issues like housing insecurity that require strong citywide connections and deep partnerships to be addressed effectively. SHAC brings together a broad cross-section of public agencies, the school district, community providers, hospital networks, advocates and other partners.

SHAC meetings are bi-monthly on a hybrid schedule. If you are interested in joining SHAC or learning more, please email liz.wilson@phimc.org 

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