SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Gov. JB Pritzker issued an executive order Friday creating a new task force to address homelessness throughout Illinois. The Interagency Task Force on Homelessness will support local solutions to help people struggling with housing insecurity.
Pritzker also announced a State Homeless Chief for the Department of Human Services will lead the task force and develop a plan to prevent the effects of homelessness. Many hope this group can tackle root causes of homelessness like substance abuse, mental health struggles, and lack of services for veterans.
"In the state of Illinois, we're gonna make sure people have homes," said Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago). "And we're going to make sure that people have the resources they need to live a high quality of life so that we can all experience economic recovery."
The new task force must submit its report on ways to achieve "zero homelessness" by the end of March 2022. Pritzker's executive order also creates a community advisory council to address the housing needs in their communities. It will include people with disabilities, those with lived experiences, and housing advocates, among others.
"We estimate that over 10,000 of our neighbors across Illinois are experiencing homelessness right this moment. But I want to be clear that homelessness is a circumstance," said Pritzker. "It is not an identity and it has real impact on real people."
Housing is a human right
The governor noted homelessness impacts people in urban and rural parts of the state. Pritzker also said people struggling with housing insecurity deserve dignity. He says the state will continue to work on ways to help them get a second chance to build a successful future.
IDHS Secretary Grace Hou stressed housing is a human right. She later said every person in Illinois deserves a place to call home.
"IDHS is committed to instituting programs aimed at mitigating poverty in Illinois and responding to the needs of hard-hit communities including the homeless population," Hou said.
Pritzker worked with the Illinois Housing Development Authority to provide $329 million in emergency rental assistance last year. He explained that funding helped 56,000 families. Illinois has $1.5 billion in federal funding available for housing relief this year. $70 million of that total went to the IHDA for supportive housing programming.
"Since 2020, IDHA has provided almost $500 million to help over 75,500 vulnerable Illinois rental households keep a roof over their heads. This is just a start to the help Illinois can provide," said IDHA Executive Director Kristin Faust.
Financial assistance still available
The Department of Human Services is still accepting applications for rental assistance until the federal funds run out. You can find out if you're eligible for rental or mortgage assistance by clicking here. IDHS also provides information about help with utility bills and free legal aid at that website.
"Ending homelessness and ensuring every neighbor has access to shelter and supportive services has long been possible here in Illinois and nationwide," said Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago). "But our collective political will, our economic will, and even our bureaucratic will, it just hasn't been focused enough. But today, we are gonna create that focus because housing is a human right and it's our foundation for well-being."