Rural homelessness on the rise in Illinois | News

More people are living homeless in rural Illinois this year compared to last year.

At a recent Rural Health Summit, an advocacy group including representatives from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition (AALC) and the Supportive Housing Providers Association came together to address the growing problem of rural homelessness in Illinois.

The homeless population increased by 2% in 2021 compared to 2020 while the homeless increased by 22%, according to AALCI data, the Southern Illinois reported.

Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, explains that homelessness in rural areas often goes unnoticed because it is less visible than in urban areas.

“Because these are very low density communities, you tend not to have that many visibly homeless people living on the streets,” he told The Center Square.

There are also fewer homeless shelters in rural communities, he said.

“Most homeless people in rural areas probably surf on sofas, stay with friends, stay temporarily in hotels or motels, or just stay in places where they cannot be seen by the general public, it is therefore difficult to measure rural homelessness.

The lack of data, especially timely data, is one of the problems facing those trying to address rural homelessness, several advocates pointed out at the summit, as the Southern Illinoisan reported. And this has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Factors contributing to homelessness in rural areas include a shortage of affordable housing, fewer economic opportunities and increased transportation costs, Palmer said.

“Many rural areas in general have higher poverty rates, have fewer employment opportunities, they struggle with issues such as overall population loss, so there may be fewer economic opportunities in the area. a rural community for people to find employment and also find affordable housing. to them, ”he said.

The expiration of a pandemic-era solution, the moratorium on evictions, has also likely contributed to the rise in numbers, according to Palmer.

But he says there are potential solutions on the horizon.

“On January 1, the minimum wage goes up to $ 12 an hour, so we know that will help people – minimum wage earners – be better placed to pay for their housing,” he said.

State rent assistance is still ongoing, and Palmer hopes to see affordable housing resources adopted into the Build Back Better plan next year.

“It would provide more money for the Housing Choice Vouchers to help people pay rent and it would provide more money for the National Housing Trust Fund to build affordable rental housing,” he said.

Also included would be money for public housing authorities to carry out repairs to existing housing.

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