Without an Illinois state budget, Inspiration Corporation has struggled to provide essential supportive services to the agency’s Housing Services participants. Over the course of the fiscal year, the agency has been forced to eliminate five total Housing Services staff positions.

The Housing Services program follows the Housing First model, “a homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing as quickly as possible – and then providing voluntary supportive services as needed.”

The cost savings to society using this type of approach has been well documented. The average annual per person cost of providing permanent supportive housing is drastically lower than the cost of housing an individual in state prisons, mental hospitals, and nursing homes. On average, Inspiration Corporation spends $6,229 per year for each individual in supportive housing; the average annual cost for the same individual in an Illinois state mental hospital is a whopping $127,810.

Housing costs graph

Inspiration Corporation provides housing and supportive services to 135 households; 89 of these households are Homeless Dedicated Units (HDU) for formerly homeless individuals. Tenants of these HDU units pay up to 35% of their income as rent, with the remainder paid by the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund (CLIHTF) directly to landlords. However, CLIHTF does not work directly with tenants.

Inspiration Corporation manages relationships with both tenants and landlords with support from the Illinois Department of Human Services. Inspiration Corporation case managers (called Housing Retention Specialists) coordinate housing and services for these tenants, helping to ensure that participants retain their housing. Retention Specialists are crucial supports for participants’ well-being and stability, providing assistance with such things as benefits applications (e.g., SNAP and SSDI/SSI); financial literacy and budgeting; transportation; navigating health care, mental health care, and substance abuse services; and enrolling children in school.

Without case management services, tenants could find themselves homeless again if a landlord chooses not to participate in the program, chooses not to renew a tenant’s lease, or fails an inspection.

Another issue is that when a unit becomes vacant, Inspiration Corporation staff members are the point people who utilize the city’s Central Referral System to ensure the unit is quickly filled by a household experiencing homelessness. If the unit is not filled quickly, many landlords decide to move on and find private tenants, ending their relationship with the State. Without enough staff working to reach out to potential tenants to fill these units, they are at risk of being lost to the homeless system. Fewer units dedicated to homeless families increases shelter usage and drives up costs.

Please contact your state representative and tell them how desperately we need funding for these vital supportive services. As it stands today with such low staffing levels, Inspiration Corporation is only able to provide emergency services to the households at highest risk.

Without the passage of a fiscal year 2016 budget and the prospect of no budget for the coming fiscal year, Inspiration Corporation will be forced to cutoff all services to 89 households, leaving these individuals at risk of becoming homeless once again. It can’t wait – please call today.