State budget includes $85 million more for program to prevent Illinois homelessness

FILE - Tents line the sidewalk on SW Clay St in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill (WCIA) – This year’s budget makes investments in ending homelessness a top priority.

An additional $85 million will go towards “Home Illinois”, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s plan to address the issue. This brings the state’s total investments towards preventing and ending homelessness to more than $350 million.

Some organization leaders say the extra dollars could make a difference.

“Hearing that there will be more funding to be able to address homeless prevention is something that is very much needed,” Darsonya Switzer, the CEO of Dove, a Decatur-based organization who offers outreach programming to help people such as the homeless and anyone experiencing domestic violence, said.

In Champaign County, 215 people were identified as homeless in January’s “point in time” count, up from the 137 identified the year before.

Melissa Courtwright, the executive director of C-U at Home in Champaign, said they’re struggling to help everyone who needs it.

“Our mid-barrier program has been upgrading since December 12th,” Courtwright said. “We’ve been operating at capacity since that time with a waitlist and I know other organizations are in a similar boat that we’re in.”

When it comes to the extra money, Courtwright said they’re cautiously optimistic about what the state’s investment will look like.

“The caution really is, we have seen in our own community, state dollars come and go as it regards to homelessness.” Courtwright said. “So what it really reminds us of is that it is our community’s commitment to ending homelessness that will actually make the biggest impact.”

Other places in Central Illinois like Heartland HOUSED say they’re happy to see more money from the state. They have a goal to end homelessness in Springfield and Sangamon County by 2028.

“We anticipate that the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community will continue to grow as long as poverty exists as long as broken systems exist in our community,” Josh Sabo, the organization’s executive director, said.

Sabo believes the additional support will help them reach that goal. 

“We know that over the next five years, we’re going to have to continue to seek new resources if we’re going to hit the goals that we have of functionally ending homelessness,” Sabo said.

Governor Pritzker hasn’t signed the budget yet but has indicated he will do so.