On June 28, the Mental Health Justice Team at ONE Northside rallied in front of the Margaret Manor Central to urge Gov. Rauner to sign SB1353, which would raise the personal needs allowance (PNA) for the first time in 30 years to $60 a month. The crowd engaged in cheering and chants demanding healthcare and dignity for all. MCed by Mental Health Justice Team Leader Sam Wickham, the rally held testimonies from people who have lived in nursing facilities and know what its like to live off $1 a day.
Among devil horned “Rauner Bucks,” Otis Thomas, former nursing home resident, expressed gratitude to the IL Senate and House for passing SB1353 while also sharing his own struggles to save up to buy his wife her wedding ring off of $30/month. He condemned the stigmatization and stereotyping of mental illness.
In the dripping rain, John Finley, a leader with ONE Northside and past resident of a nursing facility, shared how undignified it felt to be forced to live off of the $30/month PNA. He shared how the PNA goes directly to necessities like clothes, underwear, transportation, and hygiene products and almost immediately upon receiving it is completely spent.
Fred Friedman shared how the current PNA leaves no chance of savings, no possibility to live independently, or even a chance to buy a coffee or newspaper. His shirt stated, “I am one of those people” to fight against the dehumanization of people like him experiencing deep poverty and mental illness. He also attested how many of his fellow residents are forced to panhandle or perform sexual acts just to get by. He ended his speech affirming that his role in life is not defined by his illness and that people living on the current PNA deserve a higher quality of life.
Joshua Sullivan, member of ONE Northside, concluded the testimonies with a call to action. He invited attendees to call Governor Rauner’s Office to raise the PNA and invited folks to sign letters to Rauner in support of SB1353 for healthcare and dignity for all.
Finally, the action ended with leaders delivering the 400+ signed letters in support of raising the PNA to Governor Rauner’s office, declaring that people with mental illness should be able to live with dignity.
In addition, Senator Heather Steans (chief sponsor of SB1353 in the Senate) wrote a Letter to the Editor on the subject of SB1353 the same day as the action. Click here to read: http://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/sen-steans-raise-monthly-allowance-for-the-disabled/