January 30, 2008

Federal Funding Helps City in Fight to End Homelessness

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Chicago will receive a record amount of funding from the U.S. Department of Housing in Urban Development (HUD) -- $49 million -- to use for its Plan to End Homelessness in 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley said.

"Our plan is working. We’re making real progress in helping people find a way out of homelessness – and preventing them from becoming homeless in the first place," the Mayor said.

HUD Secretary Alfonso Jackson made the announcement of the grant as he toured the Margo and Harold Schiff Residences with Daley. The Schiff Residences. located at 1244 N. Clybourn Av., is a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) building that opened last year and was funded in part by the federal government.

Since 2003, the City has added 2,500 units of permanent housing citywide for the homeless and now has a total of more than 6,100 units of supportive housing for its homeless residents. In 2007, 758 units of permanent housing were added to the housing system, the Mayor said.

"We’ve re-focused our homeless system on permanent solutions, not short-term strategies.

"We’re changing from a system based on temporary shelters into one that moves people quickly into permanent housing with extensive support services, such as job training, literacy and substance abuse treatment," Daley said.

"The result is that we are making progress in this fight to end homelessness," he said.

Daley said the Department of Housing and Urban Development has been one of the most important partners in helping the city move toward its goal of ending homelessness and he described some ways in which the city has used federal money.

  • Over the last five years, the City has received more than over $200 million in federal homeless funds.
  • This year, HUD homelessness funding will support 81 permanent supportive housing programs, 40 transitional housing programs and 22 supportive service programs in Chicago.
  • For the third year in a row, Chicago has received the HUD Samaritan Initiative Award to serve chronically homeless individuals in permanent housing. This particular funding, which is awarded to successful programs, has helped add 450 units of permanent housing for chronically homeless.
  • This year, Mercy Housing Lakefront, which developed the Schiff residences, will receive the Samaritan Award funding -- $4.2 million for two years, all of which will be spent on programs to help the chronically homeless, including the development of a new SRO in the Englewood community.
  • Chicago has used its HUD funding over the past five years to double the number of permanent housing programs the City supports.

And the City’s many other partners are using to reshape their programs to meet the goals of the Plan to End Homelessness.

Progress has been measurable, Daley said.

"The number of people counted through our 2007 Homeless Count showed a 12 per cent decrease from the previous count in 2005," he said.

"That is a testament to hard work of many partners here in Chicago and to the strong commitment of Secretary Jackson and his department. They have shared and supported our vision for eliminating homelessness and to helping the victims of homelessness return to fuller participation in the economic and social fabric of our great city.

"These grants will offer hope and a home to thousands of persons here in Chicago," said Secretary Jackson. "While we know this funding will literally save lives, we must also recognize that there is still a tremendous need to find housing and services for the most vulnerable among us."

The Schiff Residences, designed by architect Helmut Jahn, opened last March and provides a home for up to 96 individuals who have faced the more than their share of life’s challenges.

"We’re determined to help them meet these challenges. And we think they deserve to live in a first-class building designed by a distinguished architect. I think that sends a clear message that their lives are just as valuable as everyone else's," Daley said.

Besides its great architecture, the building also is environmentally friendly. It has solar energy panels produced by a Chicago company and wind turbines designed at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Rainwater is saved to irrigate landscaped areas, and a 'gray water' system recycles water from showers and sinks into the toilets.

"But the building itself isn't as important as what goes on inside: transforming lives and giving people a new start," Daley said.

"Homelessness affects everyone. It's a city-wide concern.

"We believe the number of people who experience homelessness in Chicago will continue to decrease if we continue to increase our permanent housing, add prevention, and move families more quickly out of shelter while connecting them with income supports and employment opportunities.

"Our supportive housing investments are part of a broader effort to improve the quality of life for those who are most deserving of our support. We're giving every person the same chance to share in Chicago’s progress and promise.

"And when we do that, we improve the quality of life for all our residents," he said.