Chicago Sun-Times: Homeless plan needs funding (letter to the editor)

CCH Policy Director Julie Dworkin submitted a letter to the editor published by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Plan 2.0, the city’s new strategic plan to address homelessness. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless participated on the steering committee that led the nine-month effort to create the plan.

We believe the process was open and inclusive of all stakeholders and benefitted from the strong support of Commissioners Evelyn Diaz and John Pfeiffer, the city’s key leaders on homelessness. It resulted in a truly comprehensive seven-year plan, with specific strategies and numeric targets that will have a great impact on the problem, if implemented.

In particular, we are happy about the plan’s new focus on youth homelessness; the attention to removing the barrier of criminal backgrounds; the acknowledgement of the needs of “doubled up” families identified by public schools, and the commitment to create more affordable housing for those surviving at the lowest income levels. We are concerned, as always, about the commitment of new funding. This ambitious plan will require significant new resources to be successful, and so far, we are unsure about the city’s strategy to find resources.

New funding — $1.7 million for homeless youth services was found from the cost savings realized by privatizing the city’s homeless outreach and transportation program. The city-run transportation program was poorly run for years. We applaud efforts to improve these services. However, giving any private agency considerably less money — a 40 percent reduction in this case — to run the same service will not necessarily result in better quality services.

Catholic Charities — the private agency now chosen to manage transportation services — is an excellent agency with a great track record. We hope they will be able to deliver with reduced funding, but that remains to be seen.

We realize that these are difficult financial times. We need to be creative about where to find resources, but we are concerned about privatization and shrinking resources for existing programs as an ongoing strategy to fund new programs. We hope we can work with the mayor to find existing untapped resources, like tax-increment financing funds and other new funding streams to make this plan a reality.

Julie Dworkin, Loop