The new mayor of Chicago wants to help out the homeless – but she wants to keep a lid on it
HANNAH HARN, host: The city is about to become the epicenter of the fight against homelessness in America.
It’s been estimated that one in three Chicagoans live below the federal poverty line, and it’s a number that has ballooned in the past decade.
That number, about 1.2 million, has tripled in just the last decade.
And it’s also risen sharply in Chicago, where more than 2.4 million people live in the city.
And the number is rising in every county and every city.
But there’s a group of people who don’t even have jobs, and that group is growing, too.
NPR’s Tamara Keith is reporting from Chicago.
Welcome to the program.
Tamara, welcome back.
HAN NAHAN: Great to be here.
Tamura, thank you.
Well, as you probably know, we’re talking about Chicago real estate here, the real estate industry.
But we’re also talking about how Chicago is handling this crisis.
And, in fact, Chicago is trying to get out of its homelessness crisis.
So Chicago is proposing new measures that it says will help reduce the problem.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been saying for years that Chicago will be the first major city in America to crack down on the homeless, and in the process, it could save tens of millions of dollars in housing costs for thousands of people.
That’s why he’s proposing a new measure called the Chicago Housing and Development Authority, or CHDA, or the Community Development Authority.
It is a new kind of city agency that would be created to help with homelessness and provide funding to housing projects.
And its first task would be to help those who need to be housed with rent and other costs.
What we know about CHDA is that it’s been operating for a decade, but it’s never been fully funded.
It does not have the money for new projects, nor does it have the capital to do anything.
CHDA’s director of operations, Jennifer Ketterer, says CHDA will have the ability to do things that are very expensive for the city to do.
CHDI Director Jennifer KETTERER: I think it will be an opportunity for us to do some of the things that we haven’t been able to do in the first place, and maybe we’ll do it differently.
We’ll be able to really focus on the projects that are actually affordable for the people who are on the street.
And we’ll be building some of these units ourselves.
That way we can have an impact.
Now, if we’re able to get some of that money for the first phase of the housing projects, and we can get that money from other sources, we might be able, if they’re affordable, to get into those kinds of projects.
So it is a really big project, but I think we can make a difference here.
And so that’s one of the ideas.
It will also focus on helping people who need housing with rent.
And if you have to live on the streets, CHDA also will be looking to build units where there’s access to services.
And as CHDA begins the work, Chicago Housing Authority board member Kevin Miller says there are some very tough issues to tackle.
Kevin MILLER: If you have a problem in a shelter or a transitional shelter, it’s very difficult for them to get the housing they need.
If you’re homeless, they don’t have the resources to provide the services that they need to get their needs met.
And in many cases they can’t afford to put those people on the housing because they can never pay the rent or the utility bills.
So this is going to be a big step for CHDA to make sure that the housing is affordable for all Chicagoans.
So we’re really excited about that.
And I think that the new CHDA plan, and this will also be part of the first phases of the Housing Authority’s efforts, will focus on making sure that we’re getting more housing built, and creating more housing to meet those needs.
HANS: It is also an effort to make some improvements to the way the homeless are treated in the shelter.
The problem, Kevin Miller, is that there are too many people in shelters right now.
That has created a housing crisis.
CHDAREN: I don’t know what we can do.
It really is an emotional challenge.
There are a lot of homeless people that don’t belong in a place.
They don’t feel safe in a home.
They feel they’re not welcome.
So I think the CHDA plans to do a lot more to address that issue.
I think they’re looking to do the things in shelters that really will help people feel better about their own lives and their neighbors, and make them feel more comfortable and comfortable with being there.
That includes, Kevin, putting more people in those places.
And then there