Current Responses to COVID-19 from Housing-Related Agencies

Joining Forces for Affordable Housing held its first meeting since COVID-19 struck Illinois on April 6, 2020. One of the things we talked about was how local housing & homeless agencies are responding. 

Connections for the Homeless
As of April 13, Connections is hosting approximately 200 people in hotels in Evanston. These people all have nowhere else safe where they can shelter in place. Local restaurants and helping to provide meals. Connections has closed Hilda's Place, moving residents to hotels so they have more protection against the virus. However, the agency is operating an emergency shelter that is physically larger than Hilda's Place for walk-ins until they can be moved to a hotel, and for people who cannot safely stay in a hotel on their own. Connections continues to run a Drop-In Center, seeing between 30 and 50 people a day, most of whom are now coming in for food. Additionally, Connections' housing programs continue to operate at full capacity. The number of callers requesting homelessness prevention and other financial assistance for housing is growing. You can read more about Connections' response to COVID-19 on the agency website.
Interfaith Action of Evanston
The emergency shelter is now closed, but soup kitchens still operate, providing carryout lunches and dinners. The hospitality center is still open but fewer people are coming.
Open Communities
The client load has increased dramatically, and callers report that banks have escalated the harassment of borrowers. Forbearance agreements have a lot of downside for the borrowers. So, Open Communities is doing a lot of loan modifications instead. Historically, they have mostly served people who are at about 30%-50% of AMI. Now they are seeing some people up to 75% of AMI.
Evanston Community Foundation
ECF has made Rapid Response grants to Connections and Curt’s Café so far. Any nonprofit can now apply for a grant for operating expenses for April and May.
The YWCA continues to assist new victims of domestic violence. 

The YMCA continues to house residents.

Other comments/chat questions raised during the discussion included:

  • Can smaller landlords get assistance from the CARES Act? If they are structured as an LLC, yes. If a sole prop, no.

  • The University of Chicago has opened their dorms to the community. Could Northwestern University do the same? The Northwestern dorms are not empty yet. The earliest that dorms would be available is May. So, this is not an option right now.

  • Could a rent strike be a tactic to help tenants? Tenants would likely benefit more from a tenants’ union that could negotiate concessions. But there may be an important long-term impact of a rent strike – an increase in non-renewals of leases, as well as landlords going out of business. 

  • Are any of the housed or homeless showing COVID symptoms? No. And Connections has , but CFTH has worked out the procedures in the event someone does has symptoms.