Evanston resident Paul Hamann was honored Thursday as one of President Barack Obama’s “Champions of Change” for his advocacy role in providing opportunities for Chicago’s homeless youth.
The program, which recognizes outstanding members of communities across the country each week for their efforts in various fields of philanthropy, is part of President Obama’s plan for “Winning the Future Across America.” In recognition for their service, honorees are invited to Washington, D.C. to take part in a celebration of their efforts and to share their ideas for building a better America.
Hamann has served as the president and Chief Executive Officer of The Night Ministry, a Chicago-based nonprofit, since 2007. The organization provides housing, health care and other needed services to people struggling with poverty and homelessness. Hamann originally joined The Night Ministry in 2002 as the Director of Finance and Administration.
“I am extremely honored to receive this honor on behalf of the staff, volunteers and supporters of The Night Ministry as well as those whom we serve,” Hamann said. “Our work together is making an impact on the streets of Chicago and in the way our government addresses youth homelessness in America. While today is a day to celebrate all that we have achieved, I look forward to finding new and even more effective ways to meet the needs of Chicago’s youth.”
Hamann’s efforts are also being recognized by the United States Interagency Council (USICH) on Homelessness, whose mission is to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and to create a national partnership at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end homelessness in the country.
One group of people helping to comprise this task force is Connections for the Homeless, a nonprofit which aims to end homelessness “by preventing people from losing their homes, housing the homeless, and providing support to help people at risk achieve long-term self-sufficiency.”
Sue Loellbach, director of development at Connections for the Homeless, said the biggest issue the homeless face is housing.
“It’s the combination of the fact that housing is too expensive and (that) there’s not enough jobs to pay for that housing,” Loellbach said.
In response to this changing dynamic, Connections for the Homeless has refocused its efforts to prevent homelessness by providing housing programs and counseling (instead of extended-stay shelters and the like). The nonprofit is largely focused on employment counseling, job readiness training and job skill retraining to assist those who are out of work to learn new skills that are in high demand.
Some Northwestern students may not be aware of the homelessness situation that exists in the city of Evanston.
“In recent years, Evanston has seen a rise in the number of people who are homeless or precariously housed, including more families with children,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. “The cost to individuals and our community is enormous. This task force, comprising a wide range of people, knowledge and skills, is taking on the challenge of formulating a plan to address it.”
Loellbach said one unique opportunity for Northwestern students, aside from typical volunteer positions and internships, is the opportunity to take part in research going on at Connections right here in Evanston.
“Being in this community, we are in a really unique position to be an incubator for new ideas,” Loellbach said.