Monday, January 30, 2012
I currently reside in Chicago, where we received bad news last week. Hull House, one of the most storied and respected social service agencies in the city (if not the nation) has closed its doors. At first, it appeared that Hull House would remain open for a while pending bankruptcy proceedings. According to the Chicago Tribune, however, Hull House did not have sufficient funds to operate beyond January and is now closed, leaving many Chicagoans without critical social services with virtually no notice. Most of the published reports that I found indicate that Hull House had become increasingly dependent upon government contracts, so it took a signficant hit when Illinois - like most states - slashed social service funding. Anecdotally within the Chicago philanthropic community, it is well known that Illinois is signficantly behind (sometimes, 6 to 8 months or longer) in funding those contracts that survived the budget cuts. This causes serious cash flow issues for many social service agencies, who must look to foundation funders and private donors for emergency cash or short term bridge loans. If an agency doesn't have a network of private funders to whom to turn in times of crisis, it will face the same sad end as the venerable Hull House. Alas, a thousand points of light cannot accomplish much if they are unable to pay their electric bill.