Will $1.75 million of new city funding solve the homeless encampment problem in Evanston?
Some Human Services Committee members expressed doubts about that Monday night, but they still voted 4-1 to advance the proposal to the full City Council at its first meeting in September.
The proposal was sponsored by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), who described as a response to homeless encampments springing up on Howard Street and in downtown Evanston.
But a memo from Connections for the Homeless, which would receive more than 70% of the proposed funding, indicates that the money would mostly go to replace pandemic-era federal funding for aid to the homeless that is now running out.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said he wanted to make sure the new funds would address the people who are in homeless encampments.
“My understanding is we’re already dealing with a shortage of available affordable housing,” Burns said.
With long wait lists for housing for people already in the shelter system, he added, to somehow find housing quickly in the existing system for people in encampments “to me is not based on reality.”
Burns suggested the city might need to resort to building temporary housing for those now living on the streets.
He didn’t specify what sort of temporary housing concept he had in mind, but such facilities have been constructed rapidly in Oakland, California, and other cities around the country.
Oakland erected its emergency shelters, from a company called Pallet Shelter, in late 2021, and by March of this year was planning to close them, to make way for construction of permanent affordable housing projects.
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she also was concerned about Reid’s proposal. “I don’t see these programs leading to actually getting some of these individuals [in the encampments] into housing.”
Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said she was not comfortable with the proposal to give $1.25 million of the funding to Connections for the Homeless.
She suggested focusing more on services that could be provided by city staff, saying she wanted to “create jobs for our city, not for other people.”
She also questioned the inclusion of a staff person at District 65 as part of a $200,000 proposed allocation to the school system. She suggested that interns from Northwestern University could do that work instead.
Just before the vote to advance the proposal to the full City Council, Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) suggested that doing so would provide time for feedback and friendly amendments.
It’s worthwhile having all the council members “chime in on the financial portion of it,” Geracaris added.