New State Housing is Recovery Pilot Program to Provide Housing to People Experiencing Homelessness and Serious Mental Illnesses or Substance Use Conditions 

The intersections of homelessness, serious mental illnesses, chronic substance use, and stark racial disparities in access to affordable housing and care are very real. The federal government and other national groups estimate that more than 25% of the unhoused population have a severe mental illness and 35% have a chronic substance use condition. In Chicago alone, on any given night over 16,000 people are experiencing literal homelessness – living on the streets, under viaducts, in cars and parks. More than three-quarters (76%) of this population identify as Black or African American. Another 49,500 people are doubled up with others to avoid the streets. Tackling this problem must be a major public policy priority for Chicago and Illinois policymakers. 

This is why Thresholds and the Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives Coalition successfully led state legislation in 2020 establishing the Housing is Recovery Pilot Program and secured $10 million in state funding to support it. The legislation passed with the full approval of the Pritzker Administration and the General Assembly.  

The program provides a permanent rental subsidy and supportive services to people who are unhoused and at risk of unnecessary psychiatric institutionalization, overdose death, or re-incarceration due to a serious mental health condition or severe substance use disorder. This provides a new, and much-need pathway into safe, affordable housing and wrap around services to meet the person where they are in their recovery, while also taking a harm reduction approach by not requiring treatment or abstinence to be eligible for the rental subsidy. 

Thresholds is honored to be awarded a $1 million grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services for this work. Thresholds’ Housing is Recovery (HIR) pilot program will serve 30 individuals at considerable risk of unnecessary institutionalization and overdose who reside in Cook County, Illinois. Over the 12-month grant period, Thresholds will use multiple outreach and referral sources to identify people who qualify for this program. These include internal programs and external partnerships. Thresholds’ internal programs, which have specialized expertise reaching this population, include the Homeless Outreach Program (HOP), the Living Room crisis center, the Substance Use Treatment Program, the Mobile Crisis Response Team, and the psychiatric crisis response teams embedded at Stroger ED (Emergency Department) and, via telehealth, at Provident Hospital ED. Thresholds’ Access and Intake department, which evaluates community referrals for Thresholds’ clinical services, will also be trained on the program eligibility criteria and add it to their screening process. 

Thresholds Health, an affiliated primary health clinic in the Austin, Chicago neighborhood, will also be trained on program eligibility and encouraged to make referrals. 

We could not be prouder to take a public policy solution from concept, to legislation, to implementation, alongside our advocacy and provider partners. We also want to thank the Governor and the General Assembly for their commitment to addressing the unhoused population living with a serious mental health or substance use condition. 


Media Contact: Emily Moen, 773-572-5172

Posted In: Advocacy, News