ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — According to the City of Rockford, the majority of panhandlers seen at major intersections this summer have a place to live and are using panhandling as a way to supplement their incomes.
The announcement comes after the City cleared out a homeless encampment near Railroad Avenue. The City said it closed the camp because “the encampment was becoming increasingly dangerous. Neighbors were concerned about the situation, and police and fire calls were increasing. Closing the camp was the best option to keep people safe.”
The City said its outreach team had been in communication with residents of the camp for 2 weeks prior to its closure, and had been working with the City’s Health and Human Services staff to get residents housed.
The City also said that they maintain a list of all homeless citizens, and showed a count of 465 within Northern Illinois as of January 27th, 2020. The official count is conducted in cooperation with the Northern Illinois Homeless Coalition.
Miss Carly’s, a kitchen for the homeless, at 1125 5th Ave, says homeless residents have been coming there following the camp’s closure, reporting that they have nowhere to sleep.
The City responded, saying, “When we make contact with any homeless person (including the people at this encampment), we give them referrals to shelter, where they can go until we can link them with a permanent housing placements. The length of time it takes to secure a permanent housing placement does vary depending on the level of cooperation from the unhoused person and how quickly we can help them find an actual housing unit.”
Officials said they are aware of many concerns of an increased number of panhandlers, saying that its outreach team makes contact with almost all panhandlers and, if they are found to be homeless, offer them a place to live through local shelters.
“However, the majority of the panhandlers that we have encountered have a place to live and are using panhandling as a way to supplement their incomes,” the City said in a statement on Monday.
The Rockford Rescue Mission has said that, in lieu of money, citizens should give panhandlers a referral card for Rescue Mission services if they’re approached in their cars by a panhandler.
Cards may be obtained in any of three ways:
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and mailing address. The Mission will gladly mail you cards.
• Pick up a stack at the Mission, 715 W. State St.
• Download and print a PDF page from rockfordrescuemission.org
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says that the homeless population in the city of Rockford has been on the rise.