CHICAGO — Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas of the 36th Ward wants the city to re-establish the Chicago Office of Veterans Affairs.

In a Wednesday morning press conference, Villegas stated the office had not been funded nor staffed since 2019. He cited a recent U.S. Census report saying Chicago is home to 68,000 veterans which equates to the population of 1.5 wards.

The alderman, a former U.S. Marine himself, called for $400,000 to be appropriated in the 2023 budget to bring the office back to life within the Mayor’s Office. Villegas believes its focus should be on employment opportunities, mental health, homelessness and other support services for veterans.

Frank Gutierrez stated members of the city’s Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs, of which he is one, were invited to speak with Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday and that they voiced their desire to have a director of veterans affairs. He then said he was informed Tuesday night that “the request was heard” and a position will be created. Gutierrez believes the position’s existence will literally save lives.

Villegas stated he had follow-up meeting Wednesday on the topic to see what the proposed funding looks like. He believes his staff has found a funding source through the city’s human resources budget. He also said “I don’t want it funded for one year because it’s election season, I want it funded moving forward because it’s the right thing to do.”