Homeless coalition struggles to stay afloat

Without state funding and with an increase in need, the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless is struggling to keep its doors open.

That, as Illinois inches closer toward one year without a budget. The agency helps get homeless people back on their feet and find a place to live. But the group says if things keep going the way they are, it may not be able to continue the services in the long term.

Coalition Executive Director Camille Dorris applies for grant after grant. She says homelessness is a huge and growing problem there, but the coalition needs to find the money it’s owed by the state if it wants to continue helping those people. She says two years ago the state gave the coalition more than $160,000 to fund services.

Last year, it were slated for a huge cut in which just a little over $80,000 would be headed its way. But when the impasse began, Dorris says that money never came. But it still needs to find money to pay the bills.

"It’s the absolute essential piece to our funding when it comes to working with individuals who are homeless, because it was all of our service money," said Dorris.

It’s been able to keep its doors open through the impasse, but leaders say that’s not their biggest concern. With reduced hours and services, they say they’re most worried about the people who are falling through the cracks.

Dorris says more people need low-income housing more than ever, but the coalition often doesn’t have the space.

"We’ve had to sell off a couple of our owned properties to raise money. These are properties that once housed individuals who are homeless or families who are homeless," she said.

But it does its best not to turn anyone away. Dorris and the three remaining staffers help people find places to stay in the shelters and buildings with a spot for them. She says, however, staffers don’t know how long the agency can stay open. She says it and other similar agencies are looking to lawmakers to compromise and pass a budget, so they can keep helping hurting families.

The Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless serves hundreds of people through the southernmost 24 counties in Illinois.

For more information on the coalition or to find out how you can help, click here

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