State budget crisis might close apartment for formerly homeless families

No deal, no way.

That's the word from the president of Illinois' largest labor union federation. He vowed to block any quick agreement on pro-business reforms.

Governor Rauner says they're key to getting a state budget, and that's bad news for social service agencies and others who haven't been paid by the state in nearly a year.

“It is a program that is working,” said Alfreda Smith, Senior Life Skills Coach at Harmony Village.

From the outside, it looks like thousands of other apartment buildings. What's different is inside, where 26 formerly homeless young women and two young men, with 32 infants and toddlers, find temporary housing and learn how to get a job. In the case of one young mother who asked FOX 32 not to identify her, make that two jobs: at a day care center and at Jewel Foods.

“I was a bagger at first. Then, I became a cashier. Then, I became customer service,” she said.

This program is run by Unity Parenting and Counseling, which says it will run out of cash next month.

The program is owed about $200,000 by the State of Illinois, and they've tried to argue to officials at the Thompson Center that it's actually a good investment.

The Illinois Homeless Youth Program served 2,355 14-to-24 year olds last year, accompanied by 239 of their children. But 2,914 were turned away and all too often ending up in the criminal justice system. 

A homeless teen in the program costs the state $1,953 a year, compared to $48,328 for child welfare in the Department of Children and Family Services or $111,000 in a juvenile prison.

When politicians in Springfield say there may not be a state budget until next fall, meaning no money for programs like this, folks here find it hard to believe.

“If we have to close our doors, that means 28 youth heads of household and 32 of their infants and toddlers are going to be in the street. There's no program to absorb them,” said Ann Holcomb of Unity Parenting and Counseling. “And I don't want to see these kids die. And that's sometimes what happens to homeless youth.”

The General Assembly's spring session is scheduled to adjourn next Tuesday night.