The 46th Ward has witnessed a proliferation in people experiencing homelessness and, despite the hard work of many, this complex issue continues to challenge our community. Access to a safe place to call home is essential to health and well-being. However, in order to end homelessness, we must ensure access to mental health, trauma, and substance use services for our residents. Studies show that more than one in five people experiencing homelessness also suffer from significant mental health issues. In order to achieve lasting solutions, we need to humanely and effectively implement a coordinated approach for solving unsheltered homelessness with housing, health care, and supportive services.
There are resources outside of local and state funding that can augment our efforts to move people from encampments into homes. Last year the Biden administration launched the “House America” program. This federal initiative calls upon cities, counties, and states to pledge to curb homelessness in exchange for federal support and resources. In June 2022, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the “Initiative for Unsheltered and Rural Homelessness” to help communities by providing federal grants to address unsheltered homelessness and homeless encampments. Working in conjunction with social service agencies, we must embrace all available opportunities that can feasibly assist us confront homelessness.
Some people experiencing homelessness in the 46th Ward live in encampments in parks and under and around the DuSable Lake Shore Drive underpasses. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has set forth seven principles for addressing encampments. These principles provide a framework for understanding and addressing homelessness.
I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with this plan because we need to work together to make significant progress on this important issue. Effective government can make a difference, but community involvement will be necessary to meet our social obligation to ensure housing for all.