Feds selective in homeless they are pushing to help

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The federally-funded program that Ayesha Cargill credits with lifting her from homelessness — and possibly saving her life — no longer exists.

That’s a personal concern for Cargill, who wonders where she would go if the mental health problems that contributed to her becoming homeless were to return.

But she wonders, too, about all the people she sees on the street right now, “people who are just like me.” She’d like to refer them to those who gave her so much help, but they’re not there any more.

Altogether, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development eliminated funding this summer to 12 of the 15 programs that provide so-called “supportive services” to homeless Chicagoans.

These are services ranging from mental health and substance abuse counseling to help with finding a job or an apartment — the support that can enable a homeless person to not only get a roof over their head but also to keep it.

“They helped find my apartment. They helped me understand my diagnosis and how to deal with my symptoms. They fed me. They clothed me. They helped me see a new light at the end of the tunnel,” Cargill says of the former homeless support program at Northwestern Medical Center’s Satellite Clinic, among those that lost funding.

On Monday, a group of social service agencies led by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said it was asking Mayor Rahm Emanuel to increase the city transfer tax — only on sales of million-dollar plus homes — to help replace lost federal funding for homeless support services.

The .1 percent “luxury” tax would add $1,000 to the city transfer tax burden on a $1 million home, up from the current $10,500.

I don’t think that’s going to happen, certainly not any time soon with an election just around the corner.

But city officials say they also are concerned about the federal cuts and have been meeting with the homeless coalition and others to try and find a solution.

It’s a little ironic — and not entirely coincidental — that this problem arrives at the same time the federal government is making a big push to end homelessness for veterans by the end of 2015.

Along with a new rapid re-housing philosophy in which an emphasis is placed on getting homeless individuals housed quickly, and helping them solve their other problems later, such re-ordered federal priorities benefit some at the expense of others.

“Giving somebody an apartment will solve the condition but won’t solve the problem,” said Jackie Edens, executive director of Inner Voice, one of the city’s leading homeless service providers.

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