In 2018, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimated that over 76,000 Chicagoans experienced homelessness, including the more than 16,000 students reported as having unstable living situations by Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In the face of such an overwhelming need, Inspiration Corporation’s Housing Program works to provide individuals and families experiencing homelessness with rental support and wraparound services. Our team of ten housing retention specialists works with over 150 households each year, encompassing more than 360 individuals, 40% of which are children. This work, already challenging to begin with, was made even more so by outdated technology. Staff were tied to old desktop computers, adding hours of travel time when they went out into the field to meet with families and landlords. As we worked to help our team become more mobile and conserve important resources, Inspiration Corporation was lucky enough to partner with the Thierer Family Foundation. Together with their team, we identified weaknesses in our technological infrastructure and came up with a set of tailored solutions, including tablet computers and work cell phones for housing staff, along with a plan for transitioning the department to more secure cloud-based online data storage. Along with this expertise, the Thierer Family Foundation supported the work with a $30,000 grant!
Little did we know how important this grant and the timing of these technological supports would be. As the country and the world transformed seemingly overnight to rely heavily remote-work in order to ensure people’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to support our housing staff in absolutely critical ways. Staff have been able to transition to working remotely the majority of the time, helping keep everyone safe and healthy during the pandemic.
Stephanie, the employment navigator for our housing team, spoke about the impact of the technology, saying, “This tablet has been a God send. Before I received it, working from home was less productive because the laptop I was utilizing did not allow me to access files that I needed. After receiving my tablet, writing case notes, accessing the internet, accessing program files, being able to write documents has changed 100%. I can easily log in and do my work, communicate efficiently with participants and be effective.”
These tablets have not just helped our staff members, but also the individuals and families in our Housing Program. By being able to work remotely and more effectively, Housing Program staff have been able to provide more efficient services, which includes things like helping participants apply online for vital benefits. Many benefits applications are now online, and have a tablet with cellular data support has been and will continue to been incredibly important. We’re continuing to work towards fully implementing all of the technological solutions supported by the Thierer Family Foundation. In the meantime, however, the impact of even just some of the solutions has been monumental, especially during the pandemic. We are deeply grateful for the support of the Thierer Family Foundation.