Stop the Revolving Door of Homelessness in Illinois

All too often people with severe mental illnesses are homeless and cycle in and out of a sad revolving door, from homeless shelters to the street and then to jail or the ER and back. To address this problem, area legislators have introduced two sets of bills to increase the supply of supportive housing for people with severe mental illnesses. NAMI Illinois’ 2020 legislative agenda includes supporting bills that address housing for people living with mental illnesses.

Many studies have shown that replacing this revolving door with supportive housing and wrap-around services results in much better outcomes. Once people are housed, visits to the ER are significantly reduced and often eliminated altogether. Arrests and time in jail are also reduced and often eliminated. And it costs much less money than the revolving door does.

The first legislation to address this problem is HB5465, sponsored by Representatives Deb Conroy, Kathleen Willis and others. This bill proposes to set up a pilot program to provide supportive housing for the heaviest users of mental health services who are caught in that revolving door. The legislation will provide rent subsidies paired with funding for the wrap-around services people need.

The second is a pair of bills, HB 5554, sponsored by Representative Delia Ramirez, and its companion in the Senate, SB3787, sponsored by Senator Mattie Hunter. These bills will create a state low-income housing tax credit, or LIHTC, similar to the one that already exists at the federal level. Under this legislation, investors can buy fungible credits to apply against their state income taxes, with the money raised from these sales going to the Illinois Housing Development Authority to create more affordable housing. The bill’s supporters estimate it will lead to the creation of 3,500 homes and apartments per year. Many of those would be supportive housing apartments for people living with a mental illness or other disability.

Passage of these bills can make a real difference in the lives of so many people mental illness who hit a wall when looking for housing. Please consider letting your state legislators know that you want them to support these bills. Find out who your representative is here: https://www.illinoispolicy.org/maps/