City Council allocates $1 million to house homeless


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) likened Northwestern’s unpaid $650,000 worth of fire services to “murder.” “The line has to be drawn,” she said.

Jacob Fulton, Assistant City Editor

Up to $1 million of the city’s Affordable Housing Fund will be used to house and support homeless residents, Evanston City Council unanimously voted Monday.

Homeless residents have been and will continue to be housed in hotel rooms, interim city manager Erika Storlie said. The rooms are spread across two hotels and capped at 104 rooms.

“The agreements we have for housing homeless residents are (made) directly with the hotels themselves,” Storlie said.

The city expects federal funding to cover the costs of the emergency housing program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of expenses, and funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act will cover the remaining 25 percent, according to Mayor Steve Hagerty.

A reimbursement is not guaranteed, but Hagerty said the city has worked to facilitate a successful distribution of funds from federal and state governments by filling out the appropriate applications and staying in contact with officials.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said the reimbursement was an important distinction to make for constituents to show the city is not just spending the money without any plan for how it impacts the budget.

“We are going to be reimbursed,” Rainey said. “In other words, it’s not just a total commitment for these funds.”

The city has already spent about $450,000 on housing, food, transportation and other needs of homeless residents, as well as residents and first responders who have been exposed to COVID-19. The city will continue to house those experiencing homelessness through the end of the state-wide stay-at-home order on May 31, which will yield $325,000 more in expenses.

Program funds initially came out of the city’s general fund. Shifting the source of funds will allow the city to use the general fund for other needs, according to a city memorandum.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) emphasized a need to plan for a smooth transition out of the existing housing program. Fleming said the city, which faces potential revenue losses of up to $20 million, could not continue the program after the stay-at-home order ends.

“Who knows when we’re coming out of shelter in place?” Fleming said. “It would be great to afford rooms forever, but we can’t do that.”

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