We have some things to celebrate in this month’s eNewsletter (though not the weather!). LAF turns 50 this year – and we salute all the people who’ve worked here in that time frame, and all the clients we’ve served, and all the supporters who’ve kept us afloat.
One of those clients achieved a great victory this month, which will benefit her and her family. But it will also change the way a local housing authority deals with women who are the targets of domestic violence.
And we are encouraged that MacArthur Genius Award Winner Matthew Desmond has opened people’s eyes to one of the biggest problems poor people face: eviction and what it does to communities. Eviction happens because people living in poverty face the impossible task of juggling to pay their rent, put food on the table, keep the lights on, or have heat. So it starts with poverty, and the no-win choices poverty imposes. But once a family is evicted, it is driven even deeper into poverty by having to move into worse housing, living with more stress and illness, and often enduring job loss. Children bounce from school to school until they drop out. And homelessness is often the end result. At LAF, we try to stop this cycle every day. But Professor Desmond’s book, Evicted, has people talking about housing policy in a whole new way.
If only the State of Illinois had a budget, we would be full of hope and enthusiasm. But it doesn’t – we are now at the end of month 10 of the current budget impasse, and there is no end in sight. For LAF, no state budget means that, from July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2016, we will not be paid for almost $1 million in work the State has given us contracts to provide. Our reserves fell by more than $800,000 in 2015. The LAF Board will spend another $300,000 of our reserves in 2016 to help with an anticipated $620,000 deficit this year. We are currently working hard to identify savings to fill the rest of the hole.
As much as LAF has been hurt by the budget situation, many of our partners in the social service sector have been hurt much worse. According to a recent United Way survey, 88% of respondents in Chicagoland have cut the number of clients they serve or eliminated whole programs. Almost half of them have tapped into their cash reserves. Nearly a third have laid off staff, and 5% have had to skip payrolls. And, of course, the clients we all serve have been hit the hardest of all.
The next 50 years at LAF are starting off with big challenges! Read about them and much more in our latest eNewsletter!