With Thanksgiving around the corner, an expiring stopgap budget, and still no progress in Springfield for a state budget, shelter residents call for progressive revenue solutions in order to keep their shelter open.
CHICAGO – Shelter residents and neighbors in Uptown rallied on Monday, calling on state legislators to pass a budget that puts people and the planet first when they return to Springfield next week. Legislators returned after their first week of veto session with no progress on passing a state budget. In July, legislators passed a stopgap spending plan, which allowed candidates to delay addressing Illinois’s growing budget crisis until after the elections.
“I’ve been at the shelter since July. My mom and I lost our apartment when they kicked us out to fix up the building and raise up the rent. There are many other people like us. It’s inhumane to send people out on the streets right as winter arrives. This is the time of year, we’re supposed to be with family and friends in a warm place. What’s there to be thankful for when you’re homeless? Instead, our state is sending men onto the streets because Governor Rauner and the legislators will not agree on a budget and are unwilling to raise taxes on the big corporations and the wealthy.” said Stanley Weatherspoon, a current resident of the shelter.
The group rallied in front of The People’s Church in Uptown where the shelter is housed. The shelter has 72 beds and serves single men, a population for whom there are dwindling resources. The shelter is scheduled to close by December 23rd. North Side Housing and Supportive Services, which operates the shelter, cited the uncertainty caused by the state’s budget crisis, years of inadequate funding, and rising costs as the reason for the shelter’s closing. As of November 16, the state had $10.6 billion in back owed bills and a $5+ billion deficit.
At the root of the budget impasse, is Illinois’ structural $5+ billion deficit. ONE Northside, along with allies, has been calling on legislators and the governor to fix the deficit by passing progressive revenue solutions. The solutions include amending the constitution to allow for a progressive income tax, closing corporate tax loopholes, and implementing a financial transactions tax. The budget impasse has dragged on because the governor insists on passing elements of his personal turnaround agenda before he will agree to a revenue package.
“This is an outrage. A shelter closing at the onset of winter creates a life or death situation for these men. The governor’s insistence on his Turnaround Agenda, and the Democrats’ refusal to put revenue bills on the governor’s desk, leaves real, human lives hanging in the balance. We want Madigan and Cullerton to put bills on Rauner’s desk that makes the rich pay their fair share. Instead of investing in people, they’re investing in banks and corporations. Let’s get that money back and put it toward people again,” said Dereco Sharif, a former resident of the shelter.
Legislation was filed in Springfield last week that would raise $2.2 billion by closing corporate tax loopholes. It is an amendment to HB293, sponsored by Rep. Will Davis. Additionally, the structural deficit requires that the state borrow money from large commercial banks in order to pay its bills. The state has to pay these banks back with interest, further directing precious taxpayer dollars away from critical services and towards these private, profitable institutions. Signs at the rally read, “Families First, Banks Last” suggesting that human service providers should be paid ahead of the banks during this budget impasse, instead of the other way around. The state needs to raise more revenue, not just to keep the shelter open, but to invest more money into public schools, human services, and our crumbling infrastructure.
Jeremy Humbracht, a resident at the shelter, said in a printed statement, “It seems like the state doesn’t care about people in my situation. If they did, the governor and legislators would put politics aside and pass a budget that fully funds shelters and affordable housing. They would raise the money our state needs by closing corporate tax loopholes and making big banks and the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.” Mr. Humbracht moved into the shelter in September, after spending six months sleeping on the streets. He said having a safe and warm place to sleep immediately allowed him to start taking better care of his mental illness and is now hoping he’ll be placed in a subsidized unit before the shelter closes.