Financial woes threaten homeless shelter's future

December 16, 2009 (CHICAGO) Several shelters that provide hundreds of beds across the city could be closing if financial help doesn't arrive soon.

The Inner Voice shelter has helped the homeless for a quarter of a century.

The organization is nearly $300,000 in debt and warns if financial help does not surface by the end of the month it will have no choice but to go out of business and leave hundreds with no place to go.

Inner Voice's mission is to build self-reliance in the people who come there for help. But now, the non-profit is relying on the generosity of those who are inspired to donate money.

Private donations only count for less than 5 percent of Inner Voice's funding. The rest comes from city, state and federal grants, that aren't enough to meet its growing needs. Inner voice hopes to change that ratio soon to stay in business.

"I didn't have a clue as to where we were gonna go and a few phone calls were made and we were able to come here and I was very grateful," said Cynthia Chatman, shelter resident.

Nearly two weeks ago, Chatman and her four-year-old son Larion came to an Inner Voice shelter at 80th and Western called Thelma's Place. Chatman needed to be in Chicago, closer to her doctor to get treatments for lung cancer and had nowhere else to turn.

"Whatever situation led a person to come here, it's just a good thing that we were able to have somewhere to come," said Chatman.

But Thelma's Place and six other shelters that are part of Inner Voice are in danger of closing. The non-profit organization's funding is not comparable to its rising expenses and it's been struggling to make ends meet. Inner voice has a deficit of $300,000 and might have to close all 800 of its beds at the end of the month. The organization is making an appeal to the public for donations as well as looking inward at cost-cutting measures.

"There may be cuts in payroll salaries, there may be cuts in positions as much as we can we're trying to avoid. But the fact is folks need our services and our mission is to provide them," said Brady Harden, president, Inner Voice.

Inner Voice has been a resource for Chicago's homeless for 25 years. It provides Chicago's growing homeless population, of which the average age is 9, a temporary place to stay as well as educational and job training services.

"The shelter system is the first line of defense. It's the place people go to when all the relatives and friends can't help out anymore," said Ed Shurna, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Last year, Inner Voice served more than 13,000 people. Its goal is to get people back on their feet and out of the shelter in four months.

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