Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday, Sept. 3 issued an executive order, 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.
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 Oct. 3.
“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,” said Pritzker.
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.
“This new task force is an opportunity to build upon the existing work and commitment of our administration to combat homelessness in our state,” said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou. “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.”
In 2020, 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.
IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust said, “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.”
“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.
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.