A new report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless shows 76,998 Chicagoans experienced homelessness in 2018, per an annual analysis by CCH that relies on the most current U.S. census data. Though the city’s aggregate homelessness count decreased from the prior year, Chicago saw a nearly 2,000-person increase among those who lived on the street or in shelters. It is a development with troubling connotations today: The city’s shelter system is a hotspot for COVID-19 infections and homelessness is expected to climb dramatically during the worsening economic downturn triggered by the pandemic.
Mark Brown, Columnist | Robert Ewaniuk has been staying at a West Side homeless shelter operated by Franciscan Outreach for a little more than a week, during which he’s been tested twice for COVID-19 after other residents contracted the disease. At age 54 and with several underlying health conditions including diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, Ewaniuk is considered high risk for coronavirus complications if he were to become infected. Ewaniuk and many others like him are stuck in limbo at shelters while they wait to learn whether the city can find a safer place for them.
Because of COVID-19, the Illinois legislative session was cut short this spring. Our legislative agenda shifted to making sure that our providers and people experiencing homelessness are equipped with the funding and services to make it through this trying and unique time. Returning to Springfield last week, the General Assembly had a short priority list of bills to take up. These included the Fair Tax ballot measure language, voting modifications for the upcoming presidential election, and of course, the state budget for Fiscal Year 2021. Legislators approved a $40 billion state budget by early Sunday, May 24.
The coronavirus pandemic amplifies the hardships experienced by people who are homeless as well as those who have been homeless and risk facing it again. Responding to pressing community need, CCH created the CCH Mutual Aid Fund. The fund will provide direct cash support of up to $500 to about 300 Illinois residents in need. During the 5-day application period, which ran May 11 – 15, over 6,000 people applied. CCH continues to accept donations to the fund so that we can assist as many people as possible.