Federal housing agency awards $115M to combat homelessness in Illinois

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The U.S. government is giving $115 million to programs in Illinois that help the homeless.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the funding on Friday.

Catholic Charities of Chicago will receive almost $5 million. The organization provides shelter, counseling, food and clothing to homeless in the city.

It's even helped a U.S. Army veteran get a new lease on life.

Kimberly Brown found a home at Catholic Charities' St. Leo's Residence for Veterans on the city's South Side after years of homelessness.

It's not a big place, but for Brown, the small studio apartment is her own.

"Things happened to me in the military that was not so pleasant," said Brown. "I came home and went straight into denial and drugs."

While sober for the past 10 years, serious health issues sidelined Brown.

She relied on family and friends for shelter. She also spent a month living at Safe Haven homeless shelter on the West Side.

"I had to register as a homeless vet. It broke my heart. I don't think anyone should be homeless, especially a vet, whether you serve one day or 20 years," Brown said.

Living in a shelter was a humbling experience that led Brown to St. Leo's.

"I said, 'God, help me. If you just give me a place I can afford, a place that is clean and a place that is mine,' and as you can see I have that and so much more," Brown said.

St. Leo's serves over 140 homeless veterans.

Similar to so many of Catholic Charities' facilities and dozens of other homeless programs in Chicago, they could not function without government funding.

"With this new grant, we can get people into apartments, help them with their rent for about a year," said Kathy Donahue, acting CEO of Catholic Charities of Chicago.

Brown said getting a much needed hand up, rather than a hand out, has given her the best gift of all: her independence back.

"Today, I try to be as humble, kind and grateful," she said.
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