Pritzker administration optimistic about budget plan targeting homelessness

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Over 120,000 people in Illinois experience homelessness each year, and Gov. JB Pritzker is asking Illinois lawmakers to support his new plan to prevent and end homelessness. His Fiscal Year 2024 budget includes more than $350 million to provide homeless prevention services and expand emergency housing options through Home Illinois, an initiative of the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The Pritzker administration hopes this multi-year plan will help everyone get access to housing. More than $155 million could assist unhoused people looking for shelter and support services while $40 million is set aside for permanent supportive housing. The administration told the House Housing Committee Wednesday that this funding could help develop over 90 new permanent supportive housing units that provide families with long-term rental assistance, case management, and other critical services.

$37 million is earmarked for creating over 460 non-congregate shelter units. Community Solutions President and CEO Rosanne Haggerty stressed that there is currently not enough capacity to help everyone in need.

“We are not going to solve homelessness in any state or as a country without really upping our game in terms of capital investments needed in new housing and the right array of housing that will be creating opportunities for individuals and households with a variety of needs,” Haggerty said.

Haggerty’s organization recently helped the city of Rockford move to “functional zero homelessness.” She said it is important that people understand prevention of homelessness means keeping people housed. Haggerty explained diversion of homelessness is when people lose their housing but they can quickly find new housing options through community resources.

The Home Illinois initiative also includes $30 million to maintain court-based rental assistance and $5 million to help homeless adults attain and retain jobs. 

DHS Homelessness Chief Christine Haley told lawmakers that the department wants to change the narrative around the root causes of homelessness. Many people think of homelessness as something tied to bad decisions someone made, but the Pritzker administration is looking at the structural issues that cause people to lack a safety net.

The Pritzker administration is asking Illinois lawmakers to approve a historic $350 million investment to address homelessness in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

Mike Miletich

Haley said she hopes the Home Illinois plan can address areas across the state that lack affordable housing, workforce development, and wraparound services. The proposal could invest $26 million to provide homeless prevention services to 5,000 more families. Haley noted that homelessness touches every community – from large cities and suburbs to rural towns and villages.

“Housing insecurity is an issue across communities,” Haley said. “And if that’s really the driving piece about lack of affordable housing, one of our goals is to really engage local communities and creating those spaces for folks to live.” 

DHS explained the state should work alongside local government leaders, health departments, and private funders to meet community goals for housing.

The governor also earmarked $25 million for short-term rental assistance and rapid rehousing services for 1,000 households. A separate $12.5 million could help create 500 new scattered site permanent supportive housing units. 

Haley told lawmakers that the average wait time for access to housing in Chicago is 703 days, and thousands across the state face similar challenges. The proposed budget includes a $45 million increase in funding for shelter diversion, emergency and transitional housing, and scattered site supportive housing. DHS leaders said Home Illinois could also provide more than $30 million for street outreach, medical respite, and re-entry services.

“Certainly as we head towards the budget-making process, the question of how we back up this document with the dollars that it’s going to take to really deliver on these promises is a question that I know we all care very deeply about,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago). 

DHS noted that 61% of people experiencing homelessness in Illinois are Black. Haley stressed that racial equity will be at the forefront of this plan. DHS will work in conjunction with many other state agencies to make this effort possible.

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February 22, 2023 at 07:09PM

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