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Homeless Task Force Takes Action With Pilot Program

By Ted Cox | April 25, 2016 11:22am | Updated on April 26, 2016 10:50am
 The Wilson Avenue underpass in Upttown  attracts the homeless.
The Wilson Avenue underpass in Upttown attracts the homeless.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

CITY HALL — Less than a month after its formation, a mayoral task force announced a pilot program Monday to attack what's described as "chronic homelessness."

The Task Force to Reduce Homelessness targeted 75 people found to be homeless for the last year, or four times over the last three years, and launched a pilot program with homeless advocates and nonprofit agencies to find them housing.

"We as a city cannot thrive until each and every one of our residents can thrive, which is why we are committed to addressing homelessness in a holistic, comprehensive and compassionate manner,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“This pilot will enlist stakeholders from all over the city to ensure that we are all doing our part in ensuring that our neighbors have a place to call home, and that those who are struggling can get the support they need to get back on their feet," Emanuel said.

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pledged to end homelessness among veterans, but it has proved to be a stubborn problem.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pledged to end homelessness among veterans, but it has proved to be a stubborn problem.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

"We are working to create a system where cases of homelessness are rare, brief and nonrecurring,” added Lisa Morrison Butler, commissioner of the city's Department of Family and Support Services, who was named chairwoman of the task force when it was announced last month.

“We believe the chronically homeless pilot program will be an integral next step in creating that system. Success in this program will be getting these 75 individuals housed and off the streets and then apply the lessons learned to the other residents experiencing chronic homelessness."

At the time the task force was formed, Butler insisted it would not be another do-nothing panel and that it would confront homelessness head-on. The pilot program aims to make good on that pledge, according to a mayoral statement, by targeting those who've suffered "recurring and extended homelessness ... specifically those who regularly sleep outside" and putting them together with agencies dedicated to finding them housing.

The 75 chronically homeless people were identified using interview techniques that grew out of initiatives to address the homeless problem among veterans. They'll be provided rental subsidies through the Chicago Housing Authority, the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund and existing Permanent Support Housing providers, according to the Mayor's Press Office.

"This pilot is the next frontier in our work to eliminate homelessness," said Ald. James Cappleman (46th), whose Uptown neighborhood tends to attract the homeless. "This approach will strengthen the coordination and collaboration of services, which follows best practices of getting people more quickly into permanent housing."

Although Emanuel boasts of increasing spending on homelessness 10 percent since he took office five years ago, and pledged to end homelessness among veterans in 2014, it has proved to be a stubborn problem.

The city confirmed Monday that it has seen an increase in the number of homeless people in Chicago, with the Department of Family and Support Services saying it typically provides housing to 3,000 people a night through shelters and interim housing.

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