The link of housing to health care
How do you "shelter in place" when you have no shelter? Right now, as the coronavirus pandemic turns our lives upside down, it is clearer than ever that housing is health care -- and that people experiencing homelessness are greatly at risk. This puts us all at risk; our collective health depends on everyone in our communities being able to stay home, take care of our health, and practice social distancing or isolate as needed.
Homeless service providers are working diligently to help their clients during this crisis and to adapt as guidance and requirements shift, but they face shortages of staff, supplies, and other critical resources. Many have had to reduce capacity in order to space out beds, find alternative sites, or shutter programs entirely. One Saturday, DuPage PADS had to close their overnight shelters out of health and safety concerns for volunteers and congregations. The agency is now working to help their clients secure shelter through alternative options, such as renting out motel and hotel rooms.
We must act immediately to support these agencies and their clients. At the state level, Illinois is taking key steps forward: Gov. Pritzker has ordered a halt to law enforcement carrying out residential evictions, and the Illinois Department of Human Services is making $6 million available throughout the state for isolation housing for people experiencing homelessness.
But action must also come at the federal level. Illinois' congressional representatives must support vulnerable Illinoisans by pushing for funding to address homelessness and housing in the stimulus relief package currently under debate.
Our legislators must champion funding for Emergency Solution Grant funds, which will expand access to emergency shelter, and increased resources for Continuums of Care, which support homeless service providers.
They should call for funding for Public Housing Authorities, emergency rental assistance, legal aid for low-income households facing eviction, and housing counseling programs. By provisions such as these, we can ensure more of our neighbors will be housed or can stay in their homes. The health of our communities depends on it.
Kristin Ginger, Communications & Development, Housing Action Illinois