Residents, staff and neighbors of an Uptown shelter, scheduled to close just before Christmas, protested in front of the People’s Church on Monday to call on state legislators to pass a budget when they return to Springfield next week.
The shelter is operated by North Side Housing and Supportive Services and is housed by the church, 941 W. Lawrence Ave. It has 72 beds and serves single men, like Stanley Weatherspoon, who came to the shelter after he was no longer able to afford his rent.
“It’s inhumane to send people out on the streets right as winter arrives,” Weatherspoon said, referring to the planned Dec. 23 closing date. “We need Governor [Bruce] Rauner and the legislators to make the big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share so that we can keep these shelters open.”
Although residents and organizers know that the North Side shelter at the People’s Church will likely not be funded in time to prevent it from closing, they hope to draw attention to the larger issue of state budget priorities.
“The legislators have not been able to come up with the courage to do the right thing here,” said Jean Darling, senior minister at People’s Church. “The sparkle and glitter of the Magnificent Mile is only skin-deep on the body of politics. Just beneath the surface there is human misery.”
The governor’s office said: “The majority party in control of the General Assembly should work with the governor by passing a balanced budget with reforms that will create jobs, lower property taxes, improve schools and protect our most vulnerable.”
ONE Northside, a community organization that includes Lakeview Action Coalition and Organization of the Northeast, has been calling on legislators and the governor to fix the deficit by passing progressive revenue solutions, according to a press release.
“There’s no way that Illinois can cut its way out of this budget deficit,” said Hannah Gelder, a community organizer for ONE Northside, who attended the protest. “If we do, it means cuts to public education, higher ed, human services. So the only way out of this is to raise more revenue and we’re calling on them to raise revenue by taxing big corporations.”
The speakers at the protest support an amendment to House Bill 293, sponsored by Rep. Will Davis, which was filed in Springfield last week. According to estimates, this amendment would raise $2.5 billion by closing corporate tax loopholes. It would also enact a progressive income tax and a LaSalle St. tax for a total revenue increase of $23.5 billion.
The plan for this increased revenue includes spending $3 billion to fund human services like homeless shelters.