I have worked hard to encourage the City of Chicago to adopt a housing first model to reduce the number of people living with homelessness after noticing its success in other parts of the country. This strategy works best when two components are in place: a sufficient amount of subsidized housing coupled with wrap-around services. The most difficult piece to this model is having a dedicated source of funding to make an investment for long-term cost savings. I’m working with Mayor Emanuel to have a steady stream of funds available so that we can remain focused on housing. Some of this funding will be through a 4% surcharge for a new Airbnb Ordinance and there will be some additional funding coming from the Clarendon-Montrose TIF development.
Our pilot program to get 70 people living under the viaducts along Lake Shore Drive directly into housing is now underway. We have had a number of meetings with housing advocates, the folks living under the viaducts, city departments, and other community leaders to create a plan that will work. After all of these individuals without homes are in their new apartments, the Dept. of Family & Support Services (DFSS) will assess what worked well with this project and where improvements can be made. Afterwards, DFSS will select more areas throughout the city where people are living outside in encampments to implement this housing-first strategy.
How You Can Help
I’ve asked Inspiration Corporation to help me with a “New Home Starter Kit” drive. This starter kit will provide these 70 individuals going into new apartments with some of the needed supplies to start life in their new homes. To organize this process of purchasing this starter kit, my office has created a registry with Target. If you’re able to help, please click here to go to the registry and purchase needed items that will assist these individuals start their new life in an apartment. Inspiration Corporation will host a day at their Uptown headquarters where you will be invited to help put these starter kits together so that they can be distributed.
A substantial number of people living on the streets have told me that they became homeless right after they were released from Cook County Jail with no employment or disability in place and no family available to help them start over again. Without these necessary supports in place, it’s no wonder why we have such a high recidivism rate in our prisons. Later this month, I will be meeting with Cook County Sheriff Dart’s Office, DFSS, and the Dept. of Public Health to discuss how a more effective transition could be made when people are released from jail.
I am pleased that so much is coming together to help those in need. It's a very complex process, but lasting solutions require thoughtful planning with everyone working together.