“No one deserves to be homeless in DuPage County,” Carol Simler told the DuPage County Board. “And DuPage County doesn’t deserve homelessness.”
Simler, executive director of DuPage PADS, spoke at the board’s regular meeting recently and warned of the growth of poverty in DuPage over the course of the last decade.
Her figures, culled from various sources, including the DuPage Federation on Human Services, Catholic Charities and the state of Illinois, highlight the disturbing trend.
In 2000, DuPage’s unemployment rate was sightly under 4 percent, its poverty rate slightly over 4 percent, the number of residents receiving SNAP food assistance (formerly called food stamps) was under 2 percent, and about 3 percent were Medicaid recipients.
Figures for 2013 show slightly more than 8 percent living in poverty, an unemployment rate of slightly more than 8 percent, 8 percent of DuPage residents receiving SNAP assistance, and 14 percent on Medicaid.
The 2013 statistics also show 1,424 DuPage residents accessing emergency shelters and 64,935 incidences of emergency bed use.
Children younger than 5 represented 127 DuPage residents in need of emergency shelter in 2013, while the number of military veterans seeking shelter was 92.
“We know the number of poor people in DuPage County is growing,” Simler said.
As the number of DuPage poor grows, so does the expense of maintaining a DuPage residence, even with the recent recession slowing the rate of economic growth. In 2013, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $970, while a two-bedroom costs $1,117.
At the same time, Social Security disability benefits average $710 per month, far short of the income required to maintain even a one-bedroom apartment in DuPage.
Simler stressed that the homeless problem in DuPage is one that touches every demographic. “We all know that it affects people of all ages, races and ethnicities.”
Simler’s research showed mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, loss of income and medical problems to be the most prominent causes of homelessness.
The DuPage County Continuum of Care is beginning the process of assembling an active program to provide accurate data on the county’s homeless problem, with the goal of implementing the findings into the county’s strategic plan.
“We want to find out who the folks are that become homeless,” Mary Keating, DuPage Director of Community Services, said after Simler’s presentation.
Keating said that one goal of the Continuum of Care’s effort would be to assess how resources are allocated countywide, and what types of partnerships could be formed with private charities and the faith-based community.