Gov. Pritzker Launches Comprehensive Approach to Fighting Homelessness in Illinois
CHICAGO - Governor JB Pritzker today issued Executive Order 2021-21, launching a comprehensive and integrated approach to fighting homelessness in Illinois. The order establishes the Illinois Interagency Task Force on Homelessness and the new position of State Homelessness Chief to lead the task force. It also provides for a Community Advisory Council on Homelessness consisting of diverse stakeholders that represent the goals and population described in this executive order, including representation of people with disabilities, people with lived experience, the philanthropic sector, and local Continuums of Care. The governor was joined by Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Grace Hou, community leaders, and stakeholders as he laid out a government-wide approach to serving unhoused residents across the state.
Today's announcement builds on the administration's existing policies and programs aimed at preventing homelessness and providing affordable, accessible housing for all Illinois residents. The administration provided $329 million in rental assistance in 2020 and will invest $1.5 billion in housing relief this year. This is in addition to extending the eviction moratorium to October 3, 2021.
"In another step to protect our most vulnerable residents, I'm announcing an Interagency Task Force on Homelessness, codifying the collaboration that has become second nature to our health and human service agencies in the face of the pandemic - an all the more essential mission with the eviction moratorium set to end," said Governor JB Pritzker. "In doing so, I'm directing my state agencies to come together with leaders in the sector to strengthen safety nets, support local solutions, and provide effective help for those dealing with the housing crisis to get them back on their feet. Together, step by step, we are working to make Illinois a place all our residents can truly call home."
The newly created interagency task force will coordinate the administration's collaborative and comprehensive effort to decrease homelessness and reduce unnecessary institutionalization across the state.
Under the leadership of the Homelessness Chief, who will work within IDHS, the new task force will develop and implement a plan to prevent and address the effects of homelessness. With the ultimate goal of achieving functional zero homelessness, the task force will identify strategies to improve health and human services for Illinois' homeless population, focusing on identifying local solutions and strengthening existing safety nets to address the root causes.
"Housing is a basic human right. Thanks to the Governor's unwavering commitment and leadership, we are committed to keeping Illinoisans in their homes and fight the homelessness crisis that has impacted so many," said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou. "This new task force is an opportunity to build upon the existing work and commitment of our administration to combat homelessness in our state. The COVID-19 Housing and Utility Assistance Project provides temporary and emergency housing and utility assistance to immigrants, refugees, and Limited English Proficient individuals who experienced a COVID-19 related financial hardship. IDHS is committed to instituting programs aimed at mitigating poverty in Illinois and responding to the needs of hard-hit communities including the homeless population."
Today's announcement is the latest effort by the administration to rebuild Illinois' social services and expand affordable housing. In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the administration launched what was at the time, the largest emergency housing assistance program in the country to help Illinois residents who have been negatively impacted by the virus. In 2020 alone, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) delivered $329 million in relief funding that allowed 56,000 families to remain in their homes.
In addition, this year the administration is coordinating a housing relief package that totals $1.5 billion. IHDA is utilizing $70 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for supportive housing programming, a portion of which is dedicated to support the formerly homeless population. Per the United States Department of the Treasury, Illinois is a leader in disbursing federal rental assistance throughout the state, currently ranking 3rd out of all states in the nation for getting money out as fast as possible.
"Everyone has a right to a safe, decent and affordable place to live, and for more than 50 years IHDA has continuously expanded its programming and explored new opportunities to help Illinoisans find and keep their homes, regardless of the challenges they face," said IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust. "Since 2020, IHDA has provided almost $500 million to help over 75,500 vulnerable Illinois rental households keep a roof over their heads. This is just a start to the help Illinois can provide, and I look forward to working with the Governor, State Homelessness Chief and other members of the task force to develop and implement new strategies for providing safe, affordable housing."
"Ending poverty and homelessness in our lifetime will require innovative partnerships, bold strategies, and significant community investments," said Jose M. Muñoz, Executive Director of La Casa Norte, which serves youth and families confronting homelessness. "We applaud Governor Pritzker for creating a dedicated team to spearhead the development and implementation of a comprehensive plan to end homelessness in our state."
"Illinois supportive housing providers are committed to ending homelessness for men, women and children in Illinois," said David Esposito, executive director of the Supportive Housing Providers Association of Illinois, which represents homeless service providers in every region of the state. "We applaud Gov. Pritzker for creating this council to develop concrete steps to end homelessness in our state and ensure the most vulnerable residents have the supports and services necessary to maintain stable and productive lives."
"We housing advocates have been calling for a state interagency council on homelessness for a few years now, and the pandemic only reinforced how housing, jobs, health, and other systems are all connected. Governor Pritzker and the State of Illinois are demonstrating today that they are listening and acting to create real solutions to our state's worsening housing crisis," said Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County Executive Director Jennifer Hill.
"Ending homelessness and ensuring every neighbor has access to shelter and supportive services has always been possible on the northwest side of Chicago, in Illinois and nationwide," said State Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D)- Chicago. "I'm thrilled that we are harnessing our collective power in Illinois to thoughtfully do just that."
For residents still in need, IDHS is currently accepting applications for rental assistance until available funding runs out. Households in need of rental assistance should contact an IDHS Service Provider Agency to ask about available assistance programs. Provider Agencies can help residents determine eligibility and apply for relief. A list of Provider Agencies, as well as organizations offering assistance with utility bills, free legal aid and additional services can be found at: https://www.illinoisrentalassistance.org.
Executive order 2021-21 is effective immediately.