I-PLUS (Independent Positive Living Under Supervision) was founded in 1995 by a group of Lake County residents who realized that many of the chronically homeless Veterans in community shelters were either receiving Social Security and VA benefits or were eligible. And yet, they were homeless. Without motivation to make lifestyle changes, these homeless individuals continued in a cycle of financial victimization by drug dealers and others who took advantage of their state of mental illness. As a result, these residents relied on overnight emergency shelters as housing. This cycle was never-ending. A group of committed people decided this cycle must end. Thus, I-PLUS was formed. I-PLUS is set up to be more than just another provider of shelter. In a controversial move, I-PLUS assumed financial control of some chronically homeless Veterans and community individual’s benefit checks as a pilot program. The executive director then set up partnerships with case managers and treatment providers to ensure that the beneficiaries were in control of their financial resources, as well as choosing to participate in a treatment plan. Over the course of several years, I-PLUS won the respect of the community. It evolved from eight clients, receiving disbursements directly from case managers and volunteers, to having served over 700 clients in it’s 20+ year history.
During a typical month, more than $190,000 is managed through a local bank. This money is used to benefit a client load of approximately 180 people; more than half of I-PLUS clients are veterans. I-PLUS serves Lake County, Cook County, McHenry County in Illinois and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Because 60% of our clients are veterans, I-PLUS moved to the James A. Lovell Federal Healthcare Center VA campus in July 2005. Having I-PLUS onsite has enabled I-PLUS to work directly with treatment teams to stabilize veterans as they return to the community.
Although located at the VA, I-PLUS services are accessible to all qualifying persons.
A VA sponsored research study found that I-PLUS is beneficial to homeless clients in the following ways: It provides residential stability, it reduces substance abuse, it improves money management, it reduces days of hospitalization, it improves health-related living habits, and it improves quality of life. The clients’ resulting behavior changes enable them to have increased life stability. This stability becomes habitual and permanent over time. A client with his/her own home has increased self-confidence, an increased a sense of self-worth, and experiences higher quality living. Higher quality living is often something a client has never before experienced. In Fiscal year 2014-2015, I-PLUS managed over $1.5 million dollars of Social Security and Veterans Administration Benefits which were put back in to the communities in which our clients live through rent, food, transportation and personal spending. Without I-PLUS, a large portion of this money would have been spent in an underground economy which would not benefit wither the client or the community.