Illinois legislators and homeless advocates ‘sleep-in’ at the Thompson Center to urge funding of critical human services

After Governor Rauner’s rejection of funding options, advocates rally to spur action on HB 4955 and SB 2603

65 homeless youth and providers protest Gov. Rauner's refusal to fund homeless programs
65 homeless youth and providers protest Gov. Rauner’s refusal to fund homeless programs. (Photo by Rachel Ramirez)

February 29 – After a meeting with Gov. Bruce Rauner resulted in the governor rejecting appropriation options for critical homeless and housing services, advocates with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless rallied at the Thompson Center to urge immediate funding of vital services that keep people off the street.


Flanked by state legislators, 65 homeless youth advocates unrolled their sleeping bags to “sleep in” the public Thompson Center to call attention to this life-threatening issue.

Jeremy Colon, 19, attended the event. He became homeless after his mom got injured and could no longer work. The family was evicted from their apartment and had to split up. His mom took his younger siblings and went to a family shelter, but because Jeremy was an adult, he could not go with them. He found a spot at La Casa Norte’s Solid Ground program, a state-funded homeless youth program, which helped him get stable and find a job. La Casa Norte has not been paid for the housing and services they provide for eight months.

Caprice Williams speaks to members of the press following the Feb. 19 meeting with Gov. Rauner.
From the Feb. 19 meeting: Caprice Williams, 22, speaks to reporters after meeting with Gov. Rauner. (Photo by Jim Picchetti)

On Friday, Feb. 19, Gov. Rauner met with 20 service providers and homeless youth to discuss funding options. Gov. Rauner said he would discuss options with his staff and get back to the youth with an answer. On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Gov. Rauner’s office said it would not support releasing the funds targeted in bills HB 4955 and SB 2603 – which would provide immediate funding for these critical services.

“We are here to ask why the governor lied to us, why he said he would consider ‘creative funding’ just to turn around and literally leave people out in the cold,” said Julie Dworkin, director of policy for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “They released the funds for the lottery, so why not homeless youth? Shame on Governor Rauner – this is a life and death issue for us.”

Gov. Rauner’s staff had said a policy aide would be sent down to talk with the group Monday, but he never showed.

The state of Illinois has already collected $274.7 million earmarked for homeless and housing services, however, the budget impasse means the funding is continuing to sit untouched. Recently, dozens of homeless prevention and support programs have eliminated services and many are on the brink of closing. Staff has been laid off and many have no where to turn.


“We are calling on the governor to change his mind and release these critical funds. Right now with House Bill 4955, the governor has the chance to provide for homeless youth across our state. The money is already there, we just need the action,” said State Rep. Chris Welch (D-7), lead sponsor on the bill.

“It’s heartbreaking how the governor could hear the the stories of how these programs have saved lives and then turn a deaf ear,” said Sol Flores, executive director of La Casa Norte. “It’s important that people across Illinois let the governor know how they feel about shutting young people out from the housing and services they need.”

Fact sheet on HB 4955/SB2603