By Greg Bishop
The Illinois Lottery is doing its part to address homelessness by setting aside profits from a newly launched scratch-off game to assist those in need.
Niya Kelly, state legislative director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, told her during a speaking engagement at Loyola University three years ago that he wanted to do a scratch-off game to address homelessness and sustain the 20-year-old Homeless Prevention Revenue Fund. Kelly and Jones worked on the item’s language together.
“We were able to pass it through the General Assembly, hopeful that this money would be able to ensure that across the state, someone falling on hard times doesn’t end up experiencing homelessness,” Kelly said.
The Homeless Prevention Revenue Fund provides assistance with rent and utilities in addition to support services.
“This money actually goes to continuums of care throughout the state and they are responsible for finding agencies that provide assistance,” Kelly said.
The 45-year-old lottery system, operated by Camelot Illinois, has released instant games to benefit charitable organizations and first responders, but the Easy as 123 game marks the first time it has tackled homelessness, which Kelly said is a unique initiative for the lottery.
“There are specialty games, but there hasn’t been one that has addressed homelessness,” she said.
The Easy as 123 tickets cost $2, with $20,000 being the maximum amount players can win.
Kelly said she hopes the game catches on.
“The money goes towards an amazing, successful program,” she said. “We save so much money by keeping people housed than having them experience homelessness.”