Prior to 1980, homelessness in Illinois was addressed primarily by voluntary and not-for-profit groups, such as the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and Travelers and Immigrants Aid. Those and other community organizations and religious affiliates provided emergency food and lodging to people in need. But, they lacked the financial resources to meet the immediate needs of a growing homeless population and the long-term problems of homelessness. The implementation of the Illinois Emergency Food and Shelter (EF&S) Program in 1983, in addition to a new focus on services and not just shelters, allowed for some of the long-term problems of homelessness to be addressed.
Passage of the Emergency Jobs and Humanitarian Act (P.L. 98-8) in March of 1983 established the first major source of public funding to states for food and shelter. The funding was divided equally between a national board and states nationwide, with Illinois receiving $2.5 million in the first year. Additional state and local funds were forthcoming and the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA) oversaw distribution of the funds and managed the program.
Program growth and expansion since 1983 reflects the State of Illinois' concern for the food and shelter needs of Illinois residents. State General Revenue Fund money for the Emergency Food and Shelter program increased from $300,000, in fiscal year 1984, to a total combined program funding of $16.3 million, in fiscal year 2002. Moreover, new programs to address broader needs including Supportive Housing, Homeless Prevention and the Homeless Tax Write-In Programs were added.
Emergency Food and Shelter services consisted of emergency shelter and food assistance and limited ancillary services in the first years of the program. Over the years, services were expanded to include transitional shelter, not to exceed 120 days and, in Chicago, warming centers and a toll-free homeless assistance hotline. Rehabilitation of facilities continued with funds from the Homeless Tax Write-In Program. The Homeless Prevention program includes a component that provides rent, utility and security deposit assistance (once in a 24-month period) to help a household maintain housing. Until fiscal year 2000, prevention services were funded in regions outside Chicago. At that time an appropriation of $1 million was made specifically for preventive services.
On August 18, 1993, House Bill 267 was signed into law to provide state-funded supportive services for low-income families and individuals who are formerly homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The supportive services include alcohol and substance abuse counseling, mental health programs, transportation, child care, case management and other services needed by residents of transitional facilities, single room occupancy (SRO) facilities and family developments. The services are delivered by governmental units, community organizations and not-for-profit agencies that operate housing developments.
The Department of Public Aid worked with the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) to implement a pilot of the initiative in fiscal year 1994. Funding for the pilot was $200,000. The departments of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse joined the IDPA and the IHDA to ensure coordinated delivery of services. The initiative became part of the EF&S program until fiscal year 1999 when it was established as the Supportive Housing Program (SHP).
In 1997, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) was formed and the Office of Child Care and Family Services, Bureau of Homeless Services became part of the new state agency. The Homeless Prevention Act was enacted in 1999 to expand programs for persons or households at risk of homelessness and in 2000, IDHS became the lead provider for homeless prevention programs in Illinois. The Bureau of Homeless Services and Supportive Housing, administers the Homeless Prevention Program. Bureau staff perform the fiscal, programmatic and monitoring functions related to the administration of funds. In addition, they act as liaisons to each Continuum of Care, which serves individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
In Illinois, Continuum of Care systems have been formed on the local level, to deal effectively with the problems of homelessness through a comprehensive system of housing and services, from emergency shelters to permanent housing. The Continuum of Care systems were developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a strategy to help communities develop seamless systems which assist individuals and families in achieving independent living. Within Illinois, there are twenty-one (21) Continuum of Care organizations to fulfill the great need for homeless services and homeless prevention which affect so many communities. All agencies are strongly encouraged to participate in their local Continuum of Care system. An additional benefit of participation in the local Continuum of Care system includes access to state funding for prevention programs.