We just learned that the Interim Housing Program of North Side Housing and Supportive Services, a shelter for homeless men in Chicago, will shut down in late December – another casualty of our state’s disastrous budget impasse.
The shelter, which has 72 beds, has been open for four years, 365 days a year, and has provided services to more than 320 men over the years. Richard Ducatenzeiler, executive director of North Side Housing and Supportive Services, says they will start moving their clients to other programs on Oct. 1. All of the staff will be laid off at the end of December.
Although the Interim Housing program received funding through the “stopgap” spending plan, Ducatenzeiler told reporters that the closure was driven by a combination of increasing operating costs and ongoing concerns about the instability of future state funding.
Former Ald. Dick Simpson is a board member of North Side Housing and Supportive Services. In a news release announcing the planned closure, Simpson said: “It’s a tragedy for the homeless men who have to scramble to find safe places to sleep and it’s a significant hardship for dedicated staff members who will now be out of work.”
We can’t just sit still and watch more and more organizations shut their doors and lay off talented, dedicated staff members. Every day, we’re seeing the wholesale destruction of a service infrastructure that has taken decades to build.
I hope you will join our #OneInAMillionIL campaign and let our elected leaders know that we expect them to step up and forge an agreement to increase state revenues and protect vital community resources like the NSHSS Interim Housing Program.
One Month into Stopgap Spending Plan, Human Services Providers Face Uncertainty
By Jennifer Cushman
Illinois passed a “stopgap” spending plan over one month ago, but it is failing to provide the certainty that human service providers need to plan. That uncertainty threatens the services that foster well-being in communities across the state.
Take, for example, the Interim Housing Program at North Side Housing and Supportive Services (NSHSS)—an organization that works closely with RBC member ONE Northside. NSHSS provides interim housing, permanent supportive housing, a day support center, healthcare, and other services to men and women experiencing homelessness, a problem facing more than 125,000 Chicagoans every year, according to Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
For NSHSS, the budget impasse was almost fatal—just hours before the passage of the stopgap spending plan, NSHSS announced that it would be forced to shut down its interim housing shelter as a result of the impasse. The loss of this 72-bed shelter would leave Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood without a critical emergency resource. Gone too would be the supportive services that helped 98 men exit the program with documented income and placed 43 men into stable housing in 2015.
Hours after passage of the stopgap spending plan, NSHSS announced that the measure would allow the interim housing shelter to stay open—but only temporarily. Without more state funding, the shelter will again face closure in January, leaving NSHSS’s staff and those they serve mired in uncertainty and potentially leaving a neighborhood without access to emergency shelter during the coldest months of the year.
“It impacts morale and job performance. People start looking for other jobs,” said Executive Director Richard Ducatenzeiler. “And it’s hard to hire someone when we don’t know if we’ll be funded six months down the line.”
Hannah Gelder, a ONE Northside community organizer, said this uncertainty is affecting many other organizations and providers that she works with on a regular basis. “Our members are waiting to hear how much funding they’ll actually receive. They know it will not be sufficient to cover the costs they incurred over the last fiscal year. Elected officials have left us to fight over crumbs. The stopgap budget was severely underfunded and includes major cuts to the human service infrastructure in Illinois. It’s time to close corporate tax loopholes and create a progressive tax code so government can work to ensure dignity for all Illinois residents.”
It’s clear that despite the stopgap, our Governor and lawmakers are still failing to fulfill their most basic duty of governance – passing a budget. The only way that they can restore certainty, not only to North Side Housing and Supportive Services, but to providers, institutions, and communities across Illinois is to pass a fully funded, year-long budget with enough revenue to invest in the services that make Illinois strong.
This blog was originally published on August 1st, 2016. Jennifer is Field Coordinator and Policy Specialist at the Responsible Budget Coalition.