A Place to Call Home: Fighting for policies to alleviate homelessness

April 19, 2024

Christy Savellano Beretta

Christy Savellano Beretta ’16 understands the meaning of home. As a manager at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Savellano Beretta works with the growing population of young adults facing homelessness and helps families understand their housing rights. One of the most compelling aspects of her multifaceted job is overseeing a scholarship program for high school students who are experiencing housing instability and want to go to college.

“For me, home isn’t a place,” said Savellano Beretta. “It’s the people you surround yourself with and the community you build and the people who support you. I think of the people who have lifted me up and have seen the potential for me to grow, and I’d like to be that person for others who may either be facing struggles in their life or just need some hope.”

Born in the Philippines, Savellano Beretta moved to the U.S. at age eight and settled with her family in Oglesby, Illinois. Her parents urged her to attend college, but since they were unfamiliar with the U.S. higher education system, they found navigating the admissions process daunting.

It was at AU that she found the support and counseling she needed as the first member of her family to attend college in the U.S. AU helped her through admissions, and then in securing financial aid and choosing a career. Savellano Beretta got involved in student government, was a resident assistant, played lacrosse, and was captain of the women’s tennis team. She also met her now-husband, Jameson Beretta ’18, through mutual friends.

When Savellano Beretta heard a social worker from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless speak to students at AU’s Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action about how to get involved in their own community, she discovered that the field of social work was wider and more compelling than she had imagined. She was particularly interested in advocating for policy and legal rights. 

Savellano Beretta asked the speaker for his business card, and months later, landed an internship at the organization. Later, after earning her bachelor’s in social work from AU in 2016 and her master’s in social work from Loyola University in Chicago in 2017, Savellano Beretta began working full-time at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Six years and several promotions later, she serves in a management capacity and spends her time advocating for policies to help alleviate homelessness in the city. 

An estimated 68,440 people experienced homelessness in Chicago in 2021, an increase of 2,829 from the previous year, according to an August 2023 report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. On any given day, more than 6,000 people are experiencing homelessness in the city, according to the city of Chicago’s 2023 annual point-in-time count, a standard method for assessing the homeless population. (The numbers don’t take into account the recent influx of thousands of Central and South American migrants arriving by bus from border states who are seeking asylum.)

“I had a lot of community support going through college as a first-generation American and I want to give back in that way, being that stable and supportive person for those who may not have that in their life,” she said.

Savellano Beretta mentors up-and-coming social workers by running a student internship program that she created within the law department at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The interns help with the administration of the scholarship program, support client intake, and help clients to understand their rights.

Earlier this year, she passed her exam to become a licensed clinical social worker.

“I just felt that AU was so supportive of me that I want to find ways to give back by creating space for connection with people,” said Savellano Beretta. “That’s what makes community. That’s what makes home.” 

This story is an excerpt from the fall/winter 2023 issue of AU Magazine. Click here to read the full story about five alumni spending their time, experience, and enthusiasm giving back to the communities that helped them along the way.