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New funds to prevent homelessness

A huge gap in homelessness prevention funding was finally closed last month when the Emergency Fund received the first installment of $23 million in federal stimulus funds.

The funds are available to Chicago residents facing a temporary financial crisis for help with rent, utilities, moving costs and storage fees.

It’s the first public funding for homelessness prevention available here in  six months.  After the federal funding was announced last year, the state reduced its $11 million homelessness prevention program by 78 percent, said Kathleen Molnar of the Emergency Fund.

“It was just shortsighted,” said Julie Dworkin of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, which has pushed for increased funding for the state program, established in 1999.  “It’s such a critical program and the need for it is really growing.”

With budgetary delays, the state’s reduced funding wasn’t available until early last month – about the time the federal funds started arriving, Molnar said.

Families and individuals facing temporary shortfalls can see if they qualify for assistance by calling 311 and asking for short-term help.

The federal funding stream is available for the next three years, but Molnar thinks it may be used up before then.  “There’s a growing demand for housing assistance, and job creation isn’t really picking up,” she said.

In addition to funds from public sources, the Emergency Fund also distributes flexible funds, which come from donations from individuals and support from foundations and corporations.

Those are available in smaller amounts but for a much wider range of basic needs –a bus pass, an eye exam, a work uniform, a bed, a refrigerator – anything needed to help someone become or remain self-sufficient.

Last year the Emergency Fund assisted some 5,500 people, Molnar said. She said calls for assistance dropped after word got out that funding wasn’t available – but since January, the number of calls is up significantly.

According to CCH, Governor Quinn’s budget proposal maintains state homeless prevention funding at its reduced level and cuts funding for homeless youth services.

[This version corrects errors in an earlier posting.]

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Category: homeless, housing


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