From the city of Rockford:
UPDATE ON HOMELESS ENCAMPMENT: Recently, questions have come up about the City of Rockford clearing out a homeless encampment that had developed by Railroad Avenue. The City recently closed this encampment, not simply because there were homeless people there, but because the encampment was becoming increasingly dangerous.
Neighbors were concerned about the situation, and police and fire calls were increasing. Closing the camp was the best option to keep people safe.
This action was not done impulsively or without planning. City staff spoke to residents of this camp for approximately 2 weeks prior to the closure and written notice was posted with 72 hours prior, in accordance with City policies.
Nearly all of the “campers” were already working with City Health & Human Services staff to get housed—and all meet the program guidelines to receive services.
The City of Rockford Health and Human Services Department and the Northern Illinois Homeless Coalition operate on a Housing First model which means we do not require any addiction or mental health counseling prior to housing, and we provide resources and linkages to services while people are homeless and once they are housed.
Our first priority is to get people off the street and then work on connecting them once they are safely housed. When we make contact with any homeless person (including the people at this encampment), we give them referrals to shelter, where they can go until we can link them with a permanent housing placements.
The length of time it takes to secure a permanent housing placement does vary depending on the level of cooperation from the unhoused person and how quickly we can help them find an actual housing unit.
Area shelters have capacity to house people living in camps but homeless persons do not always choose to go to shelter.
The City of Rockford Health and Human Services Department does serve as the Single Point of Entry for the homeless in the area and also maintains a running list of all homeless citizens. With increased outreach services, we have staff out on the streets almost daily interacting with the unsheltered population.
We also work very closely with Code Enforcement, Police and the Fire Department, as well as many local homeless serving agencies. We are required not just to maintain a list but to conduct an official count in cooperation with the Northern Illinois Homeless Coalition.
We believe that our counts are accurate and reflect the active homeless population. These numbers have consistently decreased over the last several years.
The last 3 years of Point in Time data is below.
1/25/2001 Count – 287
1/27/2020 Count – 465* (This was the first year DeKalb County was included as part of the coalition)
1/28/2019 Count – 403
In addition, we know that there are many concerns regarding the increased number of panhandlers. Our outreach team has made contact with almost all of the panhandlers. When we find panhandlers who are homeless, we offer them housing services. However, the majority of the panhandlers that we have encountered have a place to live and are using panhandling as a way to supplement their incomes.
If you find someone who is homeless, please refer them to 844-710-6919 and the City of Rockford Health and Human Services Department will work as quickly as possible to move them to permanent housing.
This community has a dedicated group of agencies and volunteers working together to address homelessness. Any citizens or organizations wanting to help create solutions to homelessness can contact Shelly Perkins, Membership Committee Chair of the Northern Illinois Homeless Coalition, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only by working together as a community with all citizens’ best interest at heart can we solve problems like homelessness.
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