City to start housing pool to improve assistance to homeless residents

Over the course of a 27-year addiction to crack cocaine, Carlos Navarro was homeless many times, bouncing from treatment center to recovery home to another veteran-centered treatment facility before finding a home.

“It was the nexus to recovering for me,” Navarro, 64, said. “You can’t improve without a home. It gives you a stable, safe environment and it creates the opportunity to make levelheaded decisions.”

Focusing on people like Navarro, the Chicago Housing Authority, city departments including the Department of Family and Support Services and some housing groups are working together to create the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool.

The program, still in the early planning stages, will provide rental assistance to those experiencing homelessness. That means paying all or part of their rent and working with landlords to make sure housing needs are covered. The program is also enlisting the help of a housing-focused non-profit which will be the main force behind connecting potential tenants to housing.

Family Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler said the goal is to put out a Request for Information in January to non-profits to gauge their interest in partnering with the city.

By having a non-profit with rental expertise at the helm, tenants will also be connected to “intensive case management,” or mental and physical health care providers, and helping them get back on their feet, find jobs and on the road to self sufficiency.

“The program would help frequent users right now of various crisis response systems, specifically people who appear in emergency rooms regularly, who engage with Cook County Jail or people who are in shelters,” Butler said.

“It’s not that there isn’t housing out there, but it can be difficult to jump through all the hoops and requirements to manage it. By pulling together we’ll help make it easier for homeless individuals to navigate that complex system.”

Requirements for housing vary by agency and can…

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