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Join the Fight to Increase Homelessness Prevention Funding

The State legislature has through May to finalize the State budget, and Joining Forces has been working with a state-wide coalition to increase the budget line item for the Homelessness Prevention program. A description of this important program and its benefits to the community is at the end of this article.

We have already spoken with many of the legislators involved in the budget, and we have been testifying at their hearings. Now we need to keep Homelessness Prevention at the top of their list of priorities. Here are the legislators we are focused on:
Here's What You Can Do to Help

  • We are planning a trip to Springfield to set up a table in the rotunda for a day and to speak with legislators. We are looking at May 7 as the date. 
ACTION NEEDED: Please let me know if you would like to get more information on this and possibly participate by sending a note to sloellbach@connect2home.org.

  • We would like to send notes and messages to legislators throughout May to remind them of the importance of the Prevention program. We have received advice from Rep. Gabel to try to make our messages stand out. She suggested things like little cardboard houses, cookies, etc.--along with a short message asking for support. 
ACTION NEEDED: If you or a group you are part of would like to get creative and send items like this, let me know at sloellbach@connect2home.org, and I will help with addresses and other info as needed.

  • We have the legislators in the Evanston/Skokie districts pretty well covered already, in terms of meetings. 
ACTION NEEDED: If you know any legislators outside these districts (see the lists above) or know people who do, please consider whether you can meet with them or at least contact them with information about the Prevention program and our request for funding.

About the Homelessness Prevention Program
Homelessness Prevention funding is a tool that prevents people from entering the homeless shelter system by providing rental and utility assistance to keep them housed. It can also provide security deposits and can help people who have become homeless with some of the expenses of getting back into housing. 
 
People qualify for Homelessness Prevention assistance when they have experienced a hardship that has threatened their ability to pay for and keep their housing. To be eligible, they need to have enough income moving forward that, with a small level of prevention assistance, usually between $750 and $1,500, they will be able to get back on their feet and maintain their own housing moving forward. 
 
The hardships they have experienced vary greatly and include the following scenarios, among others:
  • A period of unemployment
  • A decrease in income due to illness or injury
  • A period of adjustment after a divorce or death of a spouse
  • Unexpected expenses like loss of a vehicle
In 2017, more than 78% of households were still in their housing 4 months after receiving Prevention assistance. 

Our Budget Request 
In 2018, the Homeless Prevention Program for the State was funded at $4.9 million dollars. We estimate that the Prevention Program will have prevented roughly 4,000 households from becoming homeless this year at that level of funding. 
 
In his Budget Address, Governor Pritzker mentioned the importance of homelessness prevention three times, and he has called for an increase in funding for this line item of $250,000, for a total Prevention budget that is just over $5 million.
 
While we appreciate this acknowledgement, we believe that to stem the flow of Illinois residents into the homeless shelter system, we need a total Prevention budget that is closer to $18 million. Please note that this is not what we are asking for. Rather, we are asking that the State restore the Homelessness Prevention line item to $11 million--the level it was at its highest point in 2007 and 2008. 

Benefits
The benefits of such an increase are significant and measurable:
 
  • First, the State would increase the number of people who are prevented  from losing their homes from approximately 4,000 to more than 8,000.

  • Second, the Homelessness Prevention program saves the state money. Lots of money. According to research out of the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame, every $1,000 of Homelessness Prevention funding saves the community $7,000 in homeless services costs. 
Based on the information in the Notre Dame report, an increase in Prevention funding, from $4.9 million to $11 million, will save the state approximately $7,000 per person for at least 4,000 people. That’s at least $28,000,000. We think it’s worth it, just in the hard costs.
 
There are other savings to be realized from this program:
 
  • First, housing instability has significant indirect costs, including costs of opportunity. Housing instability and homelessness rob children of their futures and make it impossible for adults to participate in the economy and to contribute to the community to their full potential.

  • Second, and related to this idea of human potential, the Homelessness Prevention funding leverages funding for every other line item in the State’s human services budget. Without stable housing, people cannot take advantage of healthcare programs, early childhood education, higher education, or any of the other human services programs that the State funds. 
 
Housing is foundational, and the Homelessness Prevention Program is one of the most effective, impactful, and cost-saving tools that the State has to ensure that everyone has a place to live.

# of People Needing/Receiving Homelessness Prevention Assistance
 
Description
Funding Level
Est. Number of People Served through Homeless Prevention Program
Est. Savings to the Community for Households that Did Not Become Homeless** 
2018 Funding Year
$4.900,000
4,000
$28,000,000
Pritzker Budget Proposal for 2019
$5,150,000
4,204
$29,428,000
Amount Needed to Stop the Flow of Illinois Residents into Homelessness*
$18,000,000
14,694
$102,858,000
What we are Asking for 2019
$11,000,000
8,980
$62,860,000