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Counties across Central Illinois are seeing homeless populations rise

Counties across Central Illinois are seeing their homeless population rise after decreasing during the pandemic. Champaign, Macon, and Sangamon counties all saw increases in their homeless populations in the last year. While officials say more needs to be done to help, how to help is the question they’re trying to answer.

From 2022 to 2023 Champaign County saw a 78-person rise during their point-in-time count, a count where organizations and volunteers go count and collect data from the homeless at a certain point in time. Sangamon County saw 40 more people, and Macon County saw 17 more people.

Executive director of Heartland Housed, Josh Sabo, says Sangamon County saw a decrease in homelessness during the pandemic, but they are now back at pre-pandemic numbers.

“But through some data analysis we do anticipate that there could be around 155 additional households who experience homelessness in Sangamon County above previous years,” explained Sabo.

Sabo believes it’s because special resources available during the pandemic are now gone.

“Now that the eviction moratorium and a lot of that funding have now been spent and are no longer in our communities, we are seeing people who are running into challenges paying their bills and keeping the lights on in their homes and paying the rent,” said Sabo.

Macon County also saw a decrease in homeless from 2020 to 2021, but then an increase in the last two years. But CEO of Dove Inc. in Decatur, Darsonya Switver says there’s a bigger problem than COVID resources ending.

“You know we have a lack of affordable housing here in Macon County. But then you know there are other reasons as well, including things that help people maintain housing,” said Switver.

Though Switver and Sabo believe the increase is for different reasons, experts in Champaign County believe their increase is possibly due to the recent opening of the low-barrier shelter.

Source: News Channel