The United States is on the cusp of the worst housing crisis in its history. Our neighbors have lost their jobs and are struggling to afford their rent and mortgage payments.
Though evictions have been halted at the city, state and federal level, not all households qualify for this protection. And for those that do, the action only defers their payments until a later time. This keeps folks in their homes immediately but provides little long-term relief to workers who were already living paycheck-to-paycheck — about 39% of workers in Cook County.
To help our neighbors pay their bills and stay housed through this pandemic, United Way of Metro Chicago and our partners have distributed millions of dollars in cash assistance through the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. The Fund, launched in March in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust and the City of Chicago, raised more than $33 million to support local nonprofits and families.
With Response Fund grants, dozens of agencies like Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Onward Neighborhood House, Westside Health Authority and Northwestside Housing Center have provided direct cash payments to families. Other organizations have assisted our neighbors who are most vulnerable to the virus, like seniors and people living with HIV.
For Carmen Gomez, this financial support allowed her focus on what matters right now: her family. Carmen is an older adult from Kelvyn Park. On top of the stress of this health and economic crisis, her husband is currently hospitalized as he battles cancer. “We used the cash assistance for food, medicine and bills,” Carmen said.
This immediate support is critical to families like The Gomez’s, but permanent solutions — including neighborhood investment, rent regulation and development of affordable housing — are desperately needed to support families long after this crisis.
Though we don’t know exactly what’s ahead, United Way and our partners know one thing is for certain: if we work together, we can build our region back stronger than before.
And we already have blue-prints to do so. Since 2010, we’ve been investing money and resources into 10 communities through our Neighborhood Network Initiative. We’re working alongside residents and community organizations to solve their most pressing challenges, including housing insecurity, homelessness and unemployment. The Networks help families find stable housing, train workers for quality, living-wage jobs, connects households to affordable health care and more.
If we keep working together, we’ll build stronger neighborhoods so kids and families not only survive this crisis but thrive far into the future.