Local agencies discuss affordable housing

By Sylvia Phillips

A lack of affordable housing in DeKalb was the focus of a discussion by area social service agencies at a Nov. 22 press conference, held to commemorate Affordable Housing Week.

DeKalb’s Networking for Families, composed of 60 social service agencies in DeKalb and Ogle counties, talked about the need for emergency housing and for a clearinghouse for social service agencies.

“We identified key issues that need attention, and our number one concern is housing,” said Joy Gullotta, chairman of Networking for Families.

Through the DeKalb County Housing Authority, low-income housing is provided for the elderly, the disabled and those with low incomes. But Networking for Families said this housing is not adequate.

The waiting list for low-income housing is often one year, and not enough low-cost housing is available for the number of people in need. Also, some landlords do not like to participate, said Chuck Kittleson, housing authority executive director. Tenants who destroy property or who do not have a good credit rating have difficulty finding a place to rent.

Many of the people temporarily without housing go to Public Action to Deliver Shelter, DeKalb’s emergency shelter for the homeless. But the shelter is open only during the evenings in the winter months, and most evenings it is filled to capacity, she said.

PADS has hosted about 16 people each evening since this October, which is almost twice as many per night as last year, Andrea Rusin, director of PADS said.

Ideally, DeKalb needs a building with the capacity to house 50 to 60 people each evening, she said.

Characteristics of the homeless are different from 13 years ago when Rusin first began working at shelters for the homeless. Instead of primarily serving single men or the mentally ill, PADS has had an increase in homeless families, she said. Nationally, 40 percent of the homeless are families, but at PADS, 67 percent of the visitors were families, she said. On Nov. 21, 14 children came for supper at PADS, Rusin said.

About two-thirds of the people who stay at PADS are employed, Rusin said. However, they do not earn enough money to afford a place to live.