As this winter’s winds push more and more of the Chicago-area’s homeless off the streets and into shelters, the recent recession has left many organizations without money to support them.

To make up for the disparity, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago Community Trust officials recently approved $550,000 in grants to organizations that combat homelessness in Chicago.

“Each site is using [its grant money] for different reasons, some to assist with maintenance, some going toward heating,” said Brady Harden, Jr., president of Inner Voice, a homeless outreach group on the West Side, adding that the money won’t be paying for salaries at his organization.

Inner Voice received $200,000, which will help finance the upkeep of 12 emergency shelters located across Chicago, which provide a total of 955 beds each night. The Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County received $150,000, most of which is expected to help cover operating expenses at eight emergency shelters in north, west and south Cook County. These shelters provide a total of 513 beds each night.

“This doesn’t necessarily increase their capacity. It helps them keep up with growing demands while running on capacity,” said Jennifer Hill, executive director of the Alliance. “Each of these organizations is sending me data showing that the need has increased while in some cases their philanthropic support has decreased.”

Heating is no small cost, since many shelters expand capacity during winter months. The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services received $100,000 to help homeless agencies cover heating costs this winter. While recipients admit that a majority of the grant money will help their shelters make ends meet, they insist it will also go toward prevention efforts.

The Alliance in Suburban Cook County is using a portion of its grant money for homeless prevention. In addition to the eight homeless shelters targeted by its grant, a portion of the money will help support four organizations that provide needy individuals with a few hundred dollars to help cover their rent, mortgage or utilities. The goal is to keep people in their homes.

“[The funds will help support] folks who could otherwise stay in their housing, but medical bills are building up or a car breaks down, so they fall behind on their rent,”
said Hill.

The Catholic Charities’ Emergency Assistance program received $100,000 to increase prevention efforts. According to the Chicago Tribune, the number of requests for assistance from Catholic Charities has increased by 66 percent in recent months.