Thankful for Shelter

Civic Action | 11/26/2019

Jessica Handy
Government Affairs Director

Yesterday, Aranda told you all about her impactful experience with Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (CROAR). She’s talked it up so much, in fact, that I signed up for their Springfield anti-racism training next month.

Springfield is my hometown. It’s where I was born, where I live, and where I raised my daughter. I love Springfield…but we have some work to do.

I got an eye-opening and disheartening introduction to local politics this year as I watched the rise and fall of plans for a supportive housing program and Center for Health and Housing. Today, I want to thank Helping Hands of Springfield, an organization that not only shelters people in need, but also pushes the community toward a forward-looking vision connecting homeless people to community-based housing and other supports to get off the streets for good.

Homelessness impacts every town and every area of our state, not just the big cities. Here in Springfield, we had an estimated 284 homeless folks according to a February 2019 count. As we enter the cold winter months, the value of a helping hand increases dramatically. After the proposed Center for Health and Housing fell through, Helping Hands cobbled together the resources in their current building to offer day services on weekends and space for fathers with children, who previously had no shelter options at all.

Springfield still needs a Plan B to move away from a reactive band-aids and toward a ‘housing first’ model. People cannot really address the big barriers they face until they have a roof over their heads to call home, and helping people find housing is a cost-effective investment overall. Helping Hands notes that permanent supported housing is 52 times (!) less expensive than the emergency room and 18 times less expensive than a mental healthcare facility.

What’s going on where you live? Is your city/town working on a proactive and comprehensive approach to fight homelessness? If you’re thankful for your home and interested in affordable housing for others, I hope you’ll find out who’s working on good housing policy and programs in your community wherever it is and get involved. You can learn more about Helping Hands’ vision here.

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