Chicago to Get Federal Help Fighting Homelessness, Officials Announce

Chicago is one of five urban centers that will get help from President Joe Biden’s administration to fight homelessness, officials announced Thursday.

The Biden administration will send a dedicated federal official to Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, the Phoenix metropolitan area and Seattle to accelerate efforts already in the works to help unhoused residents. A sixth official will be charged with reducing homelessness in California outside of Los Angeles, officials said.

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Dubbed the ALL INside initiative, officials with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which is made up of 19 federal agencies, vowed to work for two years to get unsheltered people into homes by identifying new funding and bringing together philanthropic and nonprofit groups.

White House Domestic Policy Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice launched the initiative during a virtual event Thursday designed to highlight the Biden administration’s goal of reducing homelessness by 25% by 2025.

“President Biden firmly believes everyone deserves a safe, decent and affordable place to live,” Rice said, adding that federal efforts will concentrate on making sure veterans and those aging out of the foster care system are not unhoused.

Mayor Brandon Johnson took office Monday, after campaigning on a platform that called homelessness in Chicago a “moral crisis” exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 65,000 Chicagoans are unhoused, according to the Chicago Coalition of the Homeless.

In a statement, Johnson welcomed the assistance of the Biden administration in helping “our unsheltered neighbors find safe places to live.”

Biden will run for a second term as president in 2024 and is expected to secure the Democratic nomination for president at the party’s August 2024 convention in Chicago. That gives the Biden administration as well as Chicago leaders a clear incentive to reduce the number of unsheltered Chicagoans well in advance of the convention.

The launch of the initiative gave Deputy Mayor Jennifer Johnson a moment in the national spotlight on just her fourth day at work. Johnson, who was chief of staff to Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates, was tapped by the mayor to oversee education, youth and human services initiatives.

The Johnson administration is committed to addressing the root causes of homelessness, said Jennifer Johnson, who is not related to the mayor.

Chicago will use the federal help those sheltering on CTA trains, which Jennifer Johnson said became a “much more visible” issue during the pandemic.

More of those who use trains as shelter are Black men between the ages of 30 and 51, who use trains to survive the cold weather, access services and keep in contact with others in their community, Jennifer Johnson said.

“So this is a racial justice issue,” Johnson said. “Many of those residents on the trains have complex needs, based on ongoing struggles with chronic homelessness, mental health or substance abuse. These complex needs obviously engage and interact with their transient nature, making it very difficult to reach this vulnerable population.”

During his inaugural address on Monday, Mayor Johnson vowed to push through the proposal known as “Bring Chicago Home,” which would to hike taxes on the sales of properties worth $1 million or more in an effort to fight homelessness in Chicago.

The city will also use the new resources to help house Chicagoans returning from jails and prisons, those who have been involved in the criminal justice system, and those sheltering under highways, viaducts and bridges, according to the mayor’s office. 

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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