HomeConcertChicago Coalition for the Homeless is Riot Fest's Greatest Trigger

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is Riot Fest’s Greatest Trigger

In February 2010, Patti Smith performed a profit live performance for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Whereas the sold-out present would’ve been an important second for the group by itself, it ended up as the start of one thing a lot greater.

At that present, a person named Dem Hopkins danced the night time away earlier than successful a signed poster and meet and greet with Smith herself. However Hopkins was greater than only a fan having time. He had beforehand run a widely known Chicago punk membership known as Oz, and he felt a powerful reference to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, as he had as soon as lived on the streets himself.

On the next Monday, Hopkins known as Michael Nameche, the coalition’s Director of Growth with an fascinating proposition. He wished to carry one other profit present headlined by a reunited Bare Raygun. However what Hopkins couldn’t have probably identified was that as he was pitching Nameche on the concept, Nameche was actively sporting a Bare Raygun t-shirt and had at all times cherished the Chicago punk legends.

One factor led to a different, and finally Nameche and Hopkins ended up sitting down with “Riot” Mike Petryshyn about how the Bare Raygun present may tie into the quickly increasing pageant that Petryshyn helmed each September, Riot Fest. After a prolonged chat about mutual connections (principally involving Bare Raygun), the profit grew to become the official preview night time for that 12 months’s pageant.

Ultimately, that present ended up elevating lower than $5,000 for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, nevertheless it launched a relationship between the coalition and Riot Fest that has raised over $285,000 to this point and endured to this present day. The coalition grew to become the official charity of Riot Fest and has made an look on the occasion yearly since, usually internet hosting raffles, auctions and different fundraising measures to help the work they do in aiding with the homeless disaster in Illinois.

SPIN IMPACT sat down with Nameche at this 12 months’s Riot Fest to study extra concerning the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, its mission, and its long-tenured run on the nation’s premier punk rock pageant.


Michael Nameche (proper) and Jeff Pezzati of Bare Raygun (left). Photograph courtesy of Michael Nameche


SPIN: How would you clarify the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to somebody who’s by no means heard of it earlier than?
Michael Nameche: The coalition is a superb group, and we’ve been round since 1980. I prefer to say that supporting the coalition is like supporting three organizations in a single, as a result of we’re an advocacy group — not a direct service group. You may put any person up in a short lived shelter or you’ll be able to feed any person at a soup kitchen, however that’s not going to alter their state of affairs general. We’d like systemic change. I’m not suggesting that we don’t additionally want speedy providers, however the coalition is taking three distinct approaches to the bigger image. We’ve a public coverage workforce, a neighborhood organizing workforce and a authorized workforce. We’re there on the frontlines preventing for elevated funding. We’re making an attempt to dam insurance policies which are written on the backs of individuals experiencing excessive poverty, whereas making an attempt to carry up and assist legislators craft insurance policies that may truly take away limitations. We’re constructing energy inside communities, in order that individuals who really feel disenfranchised can get entangled and use their voice to coach and inform folks about what’s actually happening.

On the heart of our group, we have now these grassroots leaders. These are folks which are experiencing homelessness or have not too long ago skilled homelessness, and they’re there at each desk the place we’re making selections concerning the insurance policies that we’re going to go after. This includes entry to healthcare, entry to training, legal justice reform, you title it. The opposite factor about advocacy is that it’s a must to be affected person and it’s a must to play the lengthy sport. We labored on prostitution within the state of Illinois for over a decade till we acquired it eliminated as a felony for the intercourse employee. Now it’s now not a blot on their document, ought to they wish to depart the intercourse commerce — which lots of them do. However that didn’t occur in a single day. We’ve been concerned in a few of our present campaigns for 4 or 5 years, however we simply hold engaged on them. Typically we’re within the room the place selections are being made, and generally we’re outdoors on the street with indicators and megaphones — and generally we’re making use of each methods.

The opposite factor is that we don’t settle for authorities cash, and we by no means have. If we’re advocating for elevated funding for a coverage change, it’s not as a result of we wish a elevate or we’re apprehensive about retaining our lights on. Our cash comes from personal people and foundations, so our evaluation of what’s working and what’s not working is impartial and goal. I prefer to say we have now no everlasting enemies and no everlasting allies. You may be a republican, you can be an impartial, you can be a democrat, you can be an alien that comes down from one other planet. When you’ve got one thing that we deem goes to assist folks in excessive poverty, we’re going to work with you for it. Then in the event you say one thing the following day that we expect “Nope, that doesn’t work.” We’re going to let you know that proper then.

How have you ever seen your work and your mission change for the reason that pandemic?
We had been very lucky as a result of we may proceed to advocate from our personal houses, however we additionally acknowledged that what it uncovered was the fact that all of us knew already — which is that so many individuals are simply a few paychecks away from a dire state of affairs. You had individuals who had been initially deemed the frontline staff — folks working at grocery shops, dock staff, cashiers — working minimal wage jobs, and immediately they miss a few paychecks and the system is compelled to react to it. You will have eviction moratoriums and issues like that. It drove residence to lots of people that it is a damaged system. Wages are too low and housing is simply too costly. These are the issues that we’ve been centered on for many years.

We created one of many first mutual support funds in Chicago, the place folks may entry a $500 contribution simply by filling out the appliance in your cellphone or calling us up. It might take you lower than 10 minutes, and also you didn’t have to supply any proof. You may simply say “That is why I want this cash.” We opened up the appliance, and inside three days, we had 6,000 functions and solely sufficient cash to assist like 500 households. We subsequently opened up wave after wave after wave, and each single time, we might attain the restrict instantly. This final wave opened up on September 1, and it took us 4 hours — so the ache remains to be there.

Nothing has actually modified due to the pandemic, nevertheless it’s simply been uncovered. We made adjustments like getting cell hotspots for homeless youth, as a result of when all the pieces went distant, we had been like “OK, properly, what are you going to do about households that don’t have Wi-Fi at residence?” You’ll be able to’t depart children behind, so we acquired laptops and hotspots for youths. We labored with the town on some lodge openings and porta potties, however these had been simply stopgaps. We tried to get extra concerned in some measures that had been similar to “OK, that is necessary proper now,” however our essential goals didn’t change.

Michael Nameche at Riot Fest 2022. Photograph by Jose Arvizu

How can people who find themselves enthusiastic about supporting the coalition assist?
Properly, politics are native. We’re known as the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, so we do citywide advocacy — however we additionally do statewide acts. We’ve been statewide for many years, however “the Illinois Coalition for the Homeless” doesn’t actually roll off the tongue. Chicago and Illinois residents can get entangled simply by visiting our web site. signing up, and taking the actions that we ask for. Plenty of them are simply informing your representatives about your emotions on the insurance policies which are in play. These insurance policies — like an anti-panhandling ordinance — may not have an effect on your life, nevertheless it has a serious impact on any person who’s simply making an attempt to get cash to purchase treatment or eat. That’s being criminalized on a city-by-city degree, not a nationwide degree, so getting concerned is important.

I’m the fundraising man, so I clearly need folks to donate, however I actually simply need them to study the issue. I believe studying the scope of the issue is the largest factor, as a result of folks see the particular person on the freeway exit and so they assume that’s homelessness. However there’s a much wider demographic — households, youngsters at school, folks working two or three jobs and nonetheless couchsurfing or staying in accommodations — that you just would possibly by no means learn about. Then there’s the underlying downside that there’s one other subgroup of people who find themselves in danger and could be solely a paycheck or two away. That’s why we have now to advocate for increased wages, decrease housing costs and people sorts of insurance policies. It’s about getting concerned in politics on the coverage degree, which some folks discover very fascinating, however most of us simply wish to dwell our lives and have the issue be mounted for us.

You skipped the standard raffle right here at Riot Fest this 12 months, so what’s your plan to boost cash and consciousness for the coalition this time round?
We acquired 14 guitars signed by bands this weekend — together with all three headliners — so we’ll in all probability maintain an public sale the month that Riot Fest declares the 2023 lineup. It’ll be one thing the place folks can bid on-line and in particular person, and the cash raised will go to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Douglass Park neighborhood teams. It’s a singular manner for followers to attach with their favourite bands. You’ll be able to bid on one thing, and in the event you win it, you’ll in all probability treasure it for a lifetime. It gained’t be like simply shopping for it on eBay, as a result of, because it hangs in your wall, you’ll know you probably did factor.



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