Social service providers, recipients affected by budget deadlock

By Jacob Wiegand, @JacobWiegand_DE

A lack of funding during the state’s budget impasse has caused many state-funded agencies to seek alternate resources to continue operations.

The Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless in Marion is an organization impacted by worsening financial issues, as a state budget has not been passed since the July 1 deadline.

The organization, while not a homeless shelter, works to provide affordable housing and supportive services to the homeless and near homeless.

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Camille Dorris, executive director of the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless, said the lack of finances has caused the non-profit to use reserve funding and take out a line of credit with a bank to continue daily operations.

“I think the bigger, long range problem is if this isn’t figured out quickly, we may have to cut services all together,” Dorris said.

Dorris said the organization is also at risk of losing funds from the federal government if funds from the state are not made available. It needs to receive money from the state to reach the threshold required to also receive federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The coalition had to decrease hours for employees and reduce home visits and assisting clients with transportation to meetings to save money.

Properties were sold and fundraising efforts have been made to help counteract the lack of funding. Dorris said there is property in Harrisburg not suitable for housing without needed repairs, but since the group cannot afford to fix damages, they are instead trying to sell it.

She said the group would rather keep its properties and allow people to live there with affordable rent, but selling houses is another way to gather necessary finances.

Dorris said with other community services being cut, she has seen an increase in people who need services, including residents of places as far as Cairo and Mt. Vernon. However, she said they provide second-stage housing and those who have an immediate problem often have to go to a shelter.

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Jennifer Cushman, field coordinator and policy specialist for the statewide Responsible Budget Coalition, spoke with Dorris and other panelists at a Sparrow Coalition meeting in October regarding budget issues. She said her organization believes in a fair budget and advocates for social services to stop being defunded.

“Our core message is that we oppose any and all cuts to vital services, we support raising adequate revenue to end the harm that is happening right now and prevent further harm. We support passing a fully funded yearlong budget and that should be a priority ahead any none-budget items,” she said.

Cushman said the Responsible Budget Coalition does direct lobbying with lawmakers and the governor, and media try bring awareness of the harm happening to underserved people in different communities. She also said the group also speaks at rallies and does community education about the impact and solutions to issues like homelessness.

“I think that we can continue with the line of credit that we have and everything probably through mid-December,” Dorris said.

At that point, she thinks things may change and layoffs may be made.

“We’re loosing good people in the social service field right now because so many places are having to cut back and cut services,” Dorris said. “And that’s detrimental to the clients too.”

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