Help for homeless: Gov. Pritzker signs bill aimed at ending homelessness

Craig Wall Image
Thursday, July 27, 2023
Gov. Pritzker signs bill aimed at ending homelessness
On Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill to formally coordinate homeless services throughout the state.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The orange tents along expressways and under overpasses serve as a reminder that homelessness is still a significant problem in Illinois.

It's estimated there are 120,000 unhoused people living in the state; more than half of them are in Chicago.

On Wednesday morning at the South Shore headquarters of Featherfist, a homeless service agency that has worked in Chicagoland for four decades, Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill to formally coordinate the state's efforts to address homelessness.

"Today we recommit ourselves with the force of this new law, to a future where every Illinoisan, no matter what their circumstances are, has a safe place to call home," Pritzker said.

Featherfist's founder and CEO Melanie Anewishki called this a very encouraging day.

"It's saying keep going; keep going, Mel. It's OK; it's gonna be all right," said Melanie Anewishki, Featherfist founder and CEO.

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Anewishki said it will help reduce what is often a silo'd approach to helping the homeless.

"So, yes, I'm reenergized. I feel great. Today is a very great day," Anewishki said.

The goal of this coordinated effort is by 2025 to reach what's called functional zero homelessness, which in essence means more people are finding housing, than are becoming homeless.

It comes as Pritzker's new budget allocates $350 million to anti-homelessness efforts, including $50 million in prevention.

Randy Horne was a homeless veteran, but, through Featherfist, is back on his feet.

"At this time, I have the 10th-floor apartment in the South Loop overlooking the entire Chicago skyline," Horne said.

The governor said this effort is unprecedented for Illinois.

Lawmakers are calling it a line in the sand.

"The bill holds us all accountable to planning the work and working the plan," said state Rep. Lindsay LaPointe of Northwest Chicago.