Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Today in the Mission Yearbook

Chicago’s Alliance for Community Services advocates for disabled people and families struggling to make ends meet

Grassroots group is among those featured in the 2024 SDOP Sunday Resource and Yearbook

April 18, 2024

Members of the Alliance for Community Services organize around issues they’ve had personal experience with. (Photo courtesy of the Alliance for Community Services)

A group in Chicago is making sure that people who often get overlooked, such as individuals with disabilities, are seen and heard when it comes to issues related to health, education and welfare.

The Alliance for Community Services is a grassroots, member-led organization that was formed about 10 years ago when public aid offices were being closed and Medicaid benefits were being cut around the state, said Fran Tobin, the alliance’s part-time coordinator.

The organization’s members include people with disabilities, families struggling to make ends meet, older people, frontline public service employees, and people who live or have lived in long-term care facilities (nursing homes).

“We collectively organize ourselves around the needs that we have,” Tobin said. “The only issues that we would speak on are issues that we ourselves have experience with.”

The group, which is a partner of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP), is featured in the Celebrate SDOP Sunday Resource and Yearbook, which is available for download online and has a companion survey for people to provide feedback.

In a written description of the group, the alliance notes, “Our members benefit directly from our advocacy. Billions of public dollars are allocated for health, education and welfare with little or no input from those of us directly affected. By organizing, we can have a voice in these policies — either private (managed care, nursing facilities) or public (community colleges, public aid) that directly affect our lives.”

The Alliance wants to make sure people who are in nursing homes are not silenced when they want to speak up about abuse or neglect. (Photo by Micheile Henderson via Unsplash)

The organization is unique because it includes both unions and disability groups, said Lyndsay Sullivan, steering committee member. “There’s really no other organization like ours.”

Funding from SDOP helped the alliance with a coordinated effort to prevent deaths from Covid in nursing homes.

“The disability justice leaders within the alliance sparked this effort … to promote greater safety and accountability in the pandemic … but also looking at how do we transform the long-term care system so that people with disabilities and seniors have choices,” Tobin said.

The alliance successfully pushed for a shortage of ombudsmen to be addressed as a result of “a campaign that required both citywide and statewide mobilization,” Tobin said.

The alliance meets regularly with “people with disabilities across the state to share their experiences related to the struggle for independence and autonomy and adequate health care for everyone,” Tobin said. “So, that has led to a campaign to get the state to redesign the long-term care system so more people have the option to live in their own homes and in the community as they’re disabled or elderly and to increase the freedom of speech so that people who are in nursing homes are not silenced when they want to speak up about abuse or neglect or violations of their rights.”

Another issue important to the alliance is making sure that people retain their Medicaid coverage despite bureaucratic obstacles and get help filing appeals if they do receive a cancellation, Tobin said.

Having SDOP as a partner to the alliance has been important for multiple reasons, including “being able to have the resources” for needs like training and leadership development, Tobin said. Also, “the SDOP vision is one that emphasizes what this alliance really wants to do anyway, which is people speaking up for themselves.”

Darla Carter, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Chicago’s Alliance for Community Services

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Louisa Gallup, Project Associate, Director’s Office, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency  
Marissa Galvan-Valle, Associate, Hispanic Resources & Relationships, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

Let us pray

Good and gracious God, we rejoice that you have called us to be your own and serve your church. We give thanks that by your Holy Spirit, you give us what we need to fulfill your call upon our lives. Inspire us to use what you have given that we might grow in your knowledge and bear fruit of our faith in Christ’s name. Amen.