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Chicago's Homelessness Problem Is The Focus Of New City Task Force

By Mae Rice in News on Mar 31, 2016 6:57PM

via Getty Images

On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a citywide task force dedicated to fighting homelessness in Chicago. Called, intuitively, The Task Force To Reduce Homelessness, its aims include improving coordination and efficiency among city departments serving the homeless, connecting homeless residents with housing and "[advocating] for additional resources" to make up for recent state- and federal-level budget cuts, according to a statement from the Mayor's Office.

Mental illness and homelessness are linked, and Emanuel has slashed city funding for mental health clinics, resulting in closures throughout the city. However, this (unsurprisingly) is not highlighted in the task force announcement. Instead, it notes that since 2011, Emanuel has "increased funding for homeless services by more than 10 percent." (If you factor in the 5.4 percent inflation rate since 2011, however, this amounts to only a 4.3 percent increase in real terms.)

“We as a city cannot thrive until each and every one of our residents can thrive, which is why we are committed to ending homelessness and ensuring that every Chicagoan has place to call home,” said Emanuel in a statement. “We have created this task force to ensure that all areas of the city are doing their part to ensure that all residents have a home, and that those who are struggling can get the support they need to get back on track.”

The Commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS), Lisa Morrison Butler, will chair the task force. On a typical night, DFSS houses more than 3,000 homeless people through a citywide network of shelters and interim housing, but in her new role, Butler will strive to raise that number (though Emanuel's statement notes that the city can't force homeless Chicagoans to take government support).

Beyond the efficiency, coordination, housing and fundraising efforts noted above, Butler's task force will also strive to develop a plan to reduce homelessness specifically among families with children. All told, the task force will involve coordination among a long list of city departments and organizations, including DFSS, the Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Park District, Chicago Police Department, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Public Library, Department of Public Health and more. (Even the Department of Aviation is involved.)