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How Chicago plans to help more homeless youth

The mayor’s goal: Provide housing for a quarter of young adults experiencing homelessness.

An aerial image of a neighborhood intersection lined with low-rise buildings. A row of taller buildings can be seen in the distance.
The plan will help populations and neighborhoods “long lacking in affordable housing.”
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In 2019, plans to increase funding for homelessness prevention programs by 36 percent as well as boost the supply of affordable units reserved for Chicago’s lowest-income renters were announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The most recent advancement helped by the city’s prioritization of addressing homelessness is a new location for Covenant House, an organization that supports young people experiencing homelessness.

The new center in East Garfield Park is right near the Green Line making it accessible for those who need services and plans to have at least 60 beds. The organization is one of the few places people who have aged out of foster care can go for help.

“A place like this is support. This is help. I foresee a place like this helping young people to be able to get themselves in a position to be the homeowners in this neighborhood,” said Alderman Walter Burnett at a news conference.

About 80,000 people are considered homeless, according to Chicago Coalition of the Homeless. Young people who are LGBTQ are at a 120 percent higher risk of homelessness. Lightfoot’s administration knows that affordable housing and homelessness support services are just small parts of a wider problem.

“We made many investments in the root causes of homelessness: Mental health, violence prevention, affordable housing,” Lightfoot said at a news conference for Covenant House. “Each of these issues are intertwined and impact each other and reinforce each other.”

Another one of the city’s initiative’s includes a $5 million investment in the city’s Flexible Housing Pool, a program that launched last year to connect individuals experiencing homelessness with supportive housing and access to needed services. The commitment represents a five-fold increase to the pool’s previous budget.

The administration also pledged $5 million infusion into the city’s Low-Income Housing Trust Fund (LIHTF), which provides affordable rental units for residents making up to 30 percent of the Area Median Income. This group comprises nearly 70 percent of Chicago’s low-income renters, defined as making up to $25,000 for a family of four.

The investment will result in 520 additional affordable housing units and expands the LIHTF total to 3,200 households, according to the city. The money will come from Chicago’s corporate fund, which covers city operations and services such as public health and safety.

“This increase is an important step in the direction of better providing for Chicago’s most vulnerable residents and strategically targeting populations and geographies long lacking in affordable housing, thus helping to address the city’s longstanding racial and economic segregation,” said Chicago Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara in a statement back in October.

In addition, the city’s affordable housing requirements are getting an overhaul. So, there’s an new affordable housing task force to evaluate city policies and proposal for a Development for All ordinance that would boost housing options for the city’s lowest-income residents.