It’s been over two weeks since the fiscal year 2015 Illinois state budget expired, and Governor Rauner and the Legislature have refused to come to an agreement over the fiscal year 2016 budget. Due to the continued stalemate, we lost half of our supportive housing budget. Without a state budget and no guarantee of financial support, the remaining half hangs in the balance.
On July 1, we were forced to lay off two Housing Retention Specialists and our Housing Services Manager. As a result, caseload sizes have increased by nearly 30% – up to 35 households comprised of up to 50 individuals. Understaffed and overburdened, the Housing Services team is running on survival mode, prioritizing emergencies over quality of life activities and supports. Housing Retention staff are now working primarily with the heads of households and won’t be able to assist with all other family members’ needs, such as assisting with school enrollment and linking children with appropriate community resources. Survival mode means fewer overall services to the entire household.
Retention Specialists act as community–based linkages to everything a participant may need to stay housed. Without this crucial support, our participants face greater risk of losing their housing and economic self-sufficiency.
The reduced staffing level means clients will be seeking necessary services at other community agencies that are also experiencing cuts. The scarcity of resources can leave our participants feeling isolated and rejected by the agencies that were created to serve them. In the long-term, we may lose key relationships with landlords in the community, and our participants could end up back on the street.
Given the current fiscal situation, we will be unable to stay true to our mission of empowering people to improve their lives and become self-sufficient. We are defaulting to massive across-the-board budget cuts by allowing the stalemate to continue. Unless we pressure our lawmakers to pass a responsible and fair budget immediately, the impact of these cuts may be with us for years to come. We urge you to contact your elected representatives today and ask them to pass a budget that protects supportive housing programs for homeless and low-income Chicagoans. Click on this link to find your State Legislator now!