Join The Fight For Our Unhoused Neighbors — An Interview With Ryan Spangler

Ryan Spangler is a Chicago-based housing organizer who has helped hundreds of unhoused people collect their stimulus payments. To learn more or get involved, sign up here:

Some posts have been going around claiming that unhoused people cannot receive stimulus payments. Is that true?

Ryan Spangler: Unhoused people are absolutely eligible to receive the stimulus check. Anyone with a Social Security Number, basically, and even some folks with ITIN numbers who have kids with [an SSN] can receive it, as well. Many folks think you have to have income or file taxes regularly, but that’s not the case. All you have to do is file a simple 1040 form — previously, it was the Non-Filer Form — and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit.

How did the Stimulus Campaign within Chicago DSA’s Housing Justice Committee come about?

RS: I believe it was Diego Morales [Pilsen Alliance, DSA] who saw a need for it. He looked to me for guidance because he knew I had some experience. I have personally signed up over two hundred people right now. And my team has probably helped around five hundred people.

What kinds of responses do you get?

RS: Folks are extremely grateful and happy that there is somebody out there trying to help them with this. And in following up with them, they are often surprised that they actually got the payment, that it actually came. It’s been wonderful to see people get this money and hear about the things they’ve decided to do with it…Propane, hotels, a place to shower, paying off debts — it’s been great hearing from people how they’ve used this money. Because it is money they’re entitled to.

What can go wrong in this process?

RS: It can be hard to locate folks once the check has been received. Oftentimes, they’re moving around a lot and don’t have a phone, so they can be hard to get in touch with. So that does happen occasionally. And sometimes, a person will have been unjustly claimed as a dependent on someone else’s returns and they weren’t aware of it.

Why is this work so important for leftists to engage in?

RS: This is about economic justice and community care — we need to take care of our unhoused neighbors and comrades. Unfortunately, a lot of the people I’ve spoken have not been able to navigate the system the systems required to obtain the stimulus, or just don’t have internet and a laptop. The government has failed to help people who need it the most, so it has fallen upon us to help people get this money that can really help people survive out there.

To get involved with the Stimulus Campaign, sign up with the Housing Justice Committee of Chicago DSA: