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How Many People Are Homeless In Chicago
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City’s Annual Homeless Survey Overlooks Thousands, Advocates Say
The Point-in-Time (PIT) count is an annual assessment of homeless people and homeless people experiencing homelessness at a point in time. Each year, data collected during the PIT count is analyzed and helps inform areas of need and allocate resources for housing and services. The City believes the data collected annually is essential to determining the need for federal funding, planning services and resources, and raising public awareness of homelessness.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is required to conduct the PIT census every two years and in 2013, the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) conducted the annual census for the City. More than 230 volunteers, including City staff and homeless shelter providers, are visiting the city for several hours in the evening. The city of Chicago is partnering with the downtown Hotel Julian to pay for 175 rooms for people left homeless during the pandemic. . Alderpeople last extended this partnership in February. But is it enough?
State Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, who represents the northwest side of Chicago, is part of the Illinois Housing Committee that looks at homelessness. They argued, in part, the “unprecedented opportunity” to address homelessness at the state level with America’s Rescue Plan dollars.
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“We are trying to make some serious progress on the problem in the medium term, but also to save lives this winter and next,” LaPointe said.
“We’ve seen an increase in homelessness [on the northwest side] and it’s an area that, compared to some other parts of the city, is stable,” LaPointe said. “The city’s emergency shelter bed capacity is inadequate, and many of us are very concerned that people will die because of it.”
Susan Reyna-Guerrero, executive director of Covenant House Illinois, a nonprofit organization serving 18-24 year olds experiencing homelessness, is in the midst of expanding its programs to include more youth.
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“We know there is a huge disparity in the resources available to homeless youth right now in Chicago,” Reyna-Guerrero said. “On any given night, there are 2,000 to 3,000 homeless youth. … What makes it so difficult to get a good number is that many of them could be on the street, or on the couch, or double, so they might have a bed tonight, but not tomorrow.”
But according to Guerrero, there are currently only 300-375 beds dedicated to homeless youth to meet this need.
Covenant House Illinois recently moved into a new facility on the West Side and is looking to increase its current 12 shelter beds to 40 by next year.
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“It’s sad,” LaPointe said. “One of the big gaps is outreach on the ground, and making sure that our human service workers, whether they’re employed by the city or by nonprofit organizations, go into their neighborhoods and actually meet people where they are, build that relationship and talk to them. About getting into the Hotel Julian. That doesn’t happen as much as it should now.”
A homeless person sleeps under the Kennedy Expressway on West Fullerton Avenue in Chicago in 2020. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
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But in a new report released Tuesday, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless released a different number: 65,611.
The disparity is largely due to the difficulty of counting the fluid homeless population and the definition of homelessness used by federal agencies, a definition that some advocates say diverts resources from some of the most vulnerable populations — children and families who live double, or temporarily . stay other people
HUD generally defines homelessness as living in a shelter or uninhabitable place, which excludes people living in a double occupancy. The agency does a point-in-time count of the number of people living in shelters, usually in January.
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Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education includes children and youth experiencing dual homelessness in its definition of homelessness. Chicago Public Schools reported serving 16,663 homeless students in the 2019-20 school year.
But none of these sources provide data on the entire population of people living double or in temporary situations like couch potatoes. That’s where the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless comes in.
Sam Carlson, director of research and communication for the coalition, said: “This is a real opportunity to include a number of the population that is otherwise hidden in the data.”
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The latest report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless revealed that 49,585 people experienced dual homelessness, making it the most common type of homelessness in Chicago. While the number of people who became homeless while living in shelters or on the streets has declined — possibly due to reduced shelter capacity during the pandemic, Carlson said — the number of people who have doubled up has increased by more than 20%.
The coalition’s total estimate of 65,611 represents a 12.6% increase in the number of people who experienced homelessness compared to 2019. Of that total, more than 75% lived temporarily with others at some point.
According to the coalition report, in 2020 homelessness affected Chicago’s Black or African-American residents, who made up 55.8 percent of the total homeless population and 75.9 percent of the HUD-defined population. Chicago also saw a significant increase in the number of Hispanic or Latino people experiencing homelessness from 12,813 in 2019 to 18,272 in 2020.
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Molly Brown, an associate professor of clinical-community psychology at DePaul University, said the significant increase in the dual tenant population revealed in the report highlights a housing crisis already hidden by the pandemic. Previously, many researchers had estimated the negative impact of the pandemic on housing affordability, but the 2021 data from HUD did not show that clearly, Brown said.
HUD’s time point count in 2021 was interrupted by the pandemic, as some communities failed to count people who experienced homelessness.
The 65,611 coalition-reported numbers were found by comparing the number of people who experienced homelessness to the number of people who requested services from HUD in 2020, data compiled by the Chicago Homelessness Management Information System. Carlson said the coalition has not released the point-in-time numbers in its calculations.
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The coalition’s reporting methodology for defining the context of dual homelessness was developed in collaboration with Vanderbilt University and the Heartland Alliance’s IMPACT Community Research Center. The model uses data from the American Community Survey, an annual survey conducted by the US Census Bureau that collects housing and population information. Researchers, including Carlson, published a study in March 2021 with information on how to reproduce the model.
This model goes beyond creating a number to double count homelessness. Instead, it represents an effort to improve public understanding of homelessness and the breadth of situations that lead to it, said Barbara Duffield, executive director of the national advocacy organization SchoolHouse Connection.
Those estimates reflect the potential for homelessness, which can change overnight, Duffield said. Any population experiencing homelessness—whether two, unsheltered, or unsheltered—is not static.
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Before Chicagoan Honni Harris stayed in her sister’s living room during the COVID-19 pandemic, she was living at the Pacific Garden Mission shelter. But after he fell ill, he returned to his younger sister’s bed and shared a sofa bed with his older son from August 2019 to May 2020. Now, he lives in his apartment with his son
Honni Harris returns home to her son’s apartment after working on her resume at the One-on-One job center on September 19, 2022. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
April Harris, a founding president of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, who is not related to Honni Harris, doubled up living with her husband and children in Pittsburgh after their previous housing situation became insecure nearly 10 years ago.
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“When you’re staying with someone and your name’s not on the rent, and you’re not on the mortgage, and you don’t have a key, and you’re sleeping on the couch or the floor, it’s not your place, and they can get you out every step of the way if they get sick of you,” April Harris said.
“We never knew that today would be the day they would ask us to leave,” he added.
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