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Home First Illinois: State Puts $15 Million Toward Affordable Housing For Disabled

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Illinois has been criticized in the past for placing people with developmental disabilities in state-run institutions. Mental health advocates and those concerned about the state's dismal financial situation have criticized the practice as being bad for the disabled and for the budget. Now, Gov. Pat Quinn is looking to make some changes.

Quinn announced Friday that he would set aside $15 million from the "Illinois Jobs Now!" program to launch "Home First Illinois," an affordable housing program for people with disabilities, according to the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

“By increasing accessible and affordable housing opportunities for our state's residents with disabilities, we are helping to increase their independence and improve their quality of life,” Quinn said in a statement. “Through this program and other initiatives, we are expanding choices for those who want to live in the community. This program also will help Illinois' economy by turning vacant housing into attractive, accessible units.”

Nonprofit lender IFF will develop the program, and the state has secured an additional $4 million from Chase bank and $125,000 from the Chicago Community Trust. Chicago non-profit Access Living will help place people in the new homes, the first of which are expected to be ready in the next six months.

"Home First Illinois" will develop about 100 affordable and accessible homes in the next three years, according to the IHDA, which will give about 145 people with disabilities permanent residences.

Last year, Medill Reports looked into the state's current system, and found that the cost to taxpayers has been steep:

It costs $142,533 annually to house a developmentally disabled individual in an Illinois state developmental center. By comparison, the annual cost of community care is about $53,291, for a savings of nearly $100,000, or 63 percent, according to a report by the governor’s Taxpayer Action Board.

Roughly $547 million was spent on private and public institutional care in Illinois in 2006. The state ranked fourth in the nation in the number of disabled in state institutions, with 2,385 individuals in 2008.

“Illinois wastes hundreds of million dollars by funding institutional options when what families want are community living arrangement options,” Tony Paulauski, president of nonprofit advocacy group Arc of Illinois, told Medill.

Quinn said he eventually wants to see the program expanded statewide, according to the Associated Press.

“I see this next three years as really carrying out the movement of community care,” Quinn said. “We have to do this in Illinois, we can’t have folks in institutions.”

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