Chicago’s global push to address homelessness prevents pandemic crisis seen in other major cities

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CHICAGO — From Los Angelesat New York, homelessness is reaching critical levels in major cities across the country. But in Chicago, the city’s aggressive and comprehensive response to the problem during the pandemic has prevented an increase in numbers.

Top city policymakers in the departments of health, housing and family services say they have implemented a strategy to bring services to the streets, vaccinate people in shelters and invest federal funds tied to the covid in affordable housing.

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Before the pandemic, an estimated 58,000 people suffered from some form of lodging g instability in Chicago. Every night there are approximately 4,500 people sleeping in shelters or on the streets in Chicago.

There are many causes for the rise in homelessness, but one stands out today: the skyrocketing cost of housing, which has pushed many people into poverty, often resulting deportation, substance abuse and other mental health issues, experts say.

According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, there are currently 7 million low-income renters who cannot afford to buy a home.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recovery plan committed $1 billion to expanding access to housing. The Department of Housing will use the money to create two dozen affordable housing developments in 20 urban communities. This is the largest investment in affordable housing in the city’s history. The city is also using funds to acquire unused hotels and convert them into shelters.

“The housing department has received $30 million in stimulus money from Chicago, and what we intend to do with that is acquire hotels and motels that it seems will won’t reopen as such, post-covid,” said Marisa Novara, Chicago housing. Commissioner.

The the housing department also distributedmore than $170 million in direct financial assistance to help residents pay their rent, Novara said.

She showed WGN News the Lucy Gonzalez ap ments in Logan Square, a 100-unit affordable, subsidized housing complex built near the CTA Blue Line, so low-income residents have access to transportation.

“What that basically means is that the Chicago Housing Authority pays rent-for-rent-for-rent for half the units and the city pays for the other half,” Novara said. “It’s affordable for people with a variety of incomes, usually starting around $55,000 for a family of four.”

During this time, the Department of Family and Support Services works to help people move from the streets to shelters, said Brandie Knazee, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

“It’s not illegal to live on the streets in Chicago,” Knazee said. “Our role is really to provide outreach and support services, so we have what we call an encampment strategy where we will go to a location for up to ten days bringing in government resources.”

Moreover, the Chicago Department of Public Healthworked to bring medical treatment to people on the streets and the Covid-19 vaccine to people in shelters, where 70% of people received injections.

“To my knowledge, this is the best any city has done,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Public Health Commissioner.

Thanks to the efforts of the three departments working together, the city was able to keep the homeless population stable, officials said. The question, they say, is what will happen when Covid relief money is no longer available to fund programs?

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“We were able to do this with federal covid funding,” Arwady said. “But is this the kind of thing we will continue to support as a society? We think so. it means recognizing that financing public health does not mean financing a disease, but financing to meet the basic health needs of the population.

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