Agencies getting $100,000 boost from Lake County to help homeless during pandemic
With homelessness expected to worsen because of economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, nonprofit agencies that help shelter people in Lake County are set to get a financial boost from the county.
The Lake County Board this week voted to set aside $100,000 to cover emergency shelter expenses incurred because of the health crisis.
The money will come from a fund for video gambling revenue that usually bankrolls grants for mental health programs. County officials have a $100,000 surplus in the account for the 2020 fiscal year, which ends Nov. 30.
"I think it's a perfect opportunity for us to let them use this money for any emergencies that come up with this COVID-19," said county board member Linda Pedersen, an Antioch Republican who serves on a commission that handles housing issues.
Lake County officials predict homelessness will rise in the region due to economic hardships caused by the crisis. PADS Lake County, which provides shelter and other assistance to people who are homeless, already has been dealing with nearly twice the number of clients it usually has this time of year.
PADS normally provides shelter to people who are homeless in group settings, mostly at churches. A Safe Place, which assists people fleeing domestic abuse, also typically offers emergency and transitional housing in group settings.
However, because of how the COVID-19 virus spreads, group shelters pose a health risk.
PADS has shut down its rotating shelter sites through at least April 30 and is housing clients individually in hotels and motels. About 100 clients are being served that way now, officials said.
The agency is using vouchers to cover the costs, but expenses are mounting rapidly, officials said.
That's where the county comes in. The $100,000 in gambling revenue the board agreed to set aside Tuesday will be used to reimburse local agencies for clients' emergency hotel stays.
If it's needed, the money will supplement state and federal aid from COVID-19 response packages.
"I don't know if it'll go very far, but it's a start," said Steve Carlson, a Gurnee-area Republican who leads the county's health and community services committee.
Any unclaimed county funds will remain in the account and can be used for mental health services as originally designated, officials said.
Representatives from PADS or A Safe Place couldn't be reached for comment.