The onset of winter means growing concern for the homeless population of Chicago.
The city of Chicago has partnered with the Julian Downtown Hotel and paid 175 rooms to house the homeless during the pandemic. Alderpeople recently extended this partnership to February. But is it enough?
Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, who represents the northwest side of Chicago, is part of the Illinois Housing Committee that investigates homelessness. They discussed, in part, the “unprecedented opportunity” to use US dollars in the state rescue plan to tackle homelessness.
“We are trying to make serious progress on medium-term issues, but also to ensure that we save lives this winter and next,” said LaPointe.
LaPointe fears that the reduced bed capacity in emergency shelters could have a detrimental effect.
“We have seen an increase in homelessness [on the northwest side] and that is an area that is relatively stable compared to some other parts of the city, “said LaPointe. “The bed capacity of the emergency shelter in the city is insufficient and many of us are very concerned that people will die from it.”
Susan Reyna-Guerrero, executive director of Covenant House Illinois, a nonprofit serving young people aged 18 to 24 who are affected by homelessness, is in the process of expanding her program to accommodate more teenagers.
“We know that in Chicago there is a huge gap in resources available for young people who are currently homeless,” Reyna-Guerrero said. “Every night there are between 2,000 and 3,000 young homeless people. … What makes it very difficult to get a good number is that a lot of them might be on the street, surfing on the couch, or hunched over, which means they might have a bed tonight, but not morning.”
However, according to Guerrero, there are currently only around 300-375 beds available for homeless young people to meet this need.
Covenant House Illinois recently moved to a new facility on the West Side and plans to increase the number of beds from 12 to 40 by next year.
LaPointe noted that many of the rooms at Hotel Julian that the city pays for are becoming vacant.
“It’s worrying,” said LaPointe. “One of the big gaps is getting in touch and making sure our human service staff, either local or nonprofit, come into the neighborhood and meet people where they are, build that relationship, and talk You with them about the entrance to the Hotel Julian. That doesn’t happen as often as it should right now. “
Contact Acacia Hernandez: (773) 509-5518 | [email protected]