With increased housing uncertainty, instability and demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cook County Board President announced today $154,000 in emergency funding for six suburban Cook County emergency shelter agencies. The new funds will primarily be used for shelter staff costs, supplies and additional housing.
“This is an important and timely effort aimed at ensuring our most vulnerable populations are cared for during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We’re doing all we can to get additional support to the front line workers of this crisis. Safety net providers like our emergency shelters are doing such astonishing work during incredibly demanding times and we are working hard to support the essential care they’re providing.”
“COVID-19 has brought into sharp relief how very thin the suburban safety net is. Homeless shelters in suburban Cook County had to transform over the course of the past week from nightly rotating sites at churches to fewer, 24/7 sites, mixed with a whole lot of motel rooms," said Jennifer Hill, executive director of the Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County. “These Cook County funds will help bring homeless shelters closer to their pre-COVID capacity, but we know there is so much more we need to do to keep people safe and healthy.”
Emergency shelters are experiencing heightened demand during the outbreak while also encountering a decrease in personnel as many shelter volunteers are often senior citizens who are now staying home in order to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Shelters must also meet enhanced Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 including costly measures such as moving individuals to hotels and apartments.
“At South Suburban PADS we acted with urgency last week to protect the health and well-being of our shelter guests, volunteers and staff,” said Doug Kenshol, executive director of grant funding recipient, South Suburban PADS of Chicago Heights. “We have closed the church-based shelters and moved 70 people into hotels where they can better self-isolate and protect themselves. We are thankful for the support of President Preckwinkle and the Department of Planning and Development for all that they are doing on behalf of vulnerable citizens.”
Preckwinkle noted the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, through its Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Solutions Grant programs, supports a wide range of critical social services throughout suburban Cook County, as well as agencies that assist those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Each year, it grants $2.3 million to suburban Cook County social service agencies, including more than $1 million in funding to organizations addressing homelessness.
For all updates on Cook County’s response to COVID-19, visit https://www.cookcountyil.gov/service/information-covid-19.