Community Snapshot: Chicago

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National Alliance to End Homelessness

Community Snapshot | January 29, 2008

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January 2008

Chicago announced its plan to end homelessness, Getting Housed, Staying Housed, in 2003. A collaborative effort of more than 200 public, private, and nonprofit entities, Mayor Richard M. Daley endorsed the plan, making it an integral part of his vision for the city. The plan calls for a dramatic shift in the nonprofit sector and the City’s response to homelessness. The cornerstone effort is a Housing First approach that helps individuals and families return to housing more rapidly by providing access to affordable housing with supports. Since 2003, Chicago has implemented a number of programs and initiatives that are beginning to show results.

Key Initiatives

Prevention. A key aspect of the plan is preventing homelessness. The Emergency Fund is Chicago’s largest source for prevention resources, administering $3 million dollars in state funds and nearly $2 million in private funds annually for homelessness prevention. Funds are administered at the community level through a network of over 50 partner agencies. The City also funds and administers short-term financial assistance. In 2006, 7,100 households received homelessness prevention funding. The average emergency grant size was $1,150. As of February 2007, all requests for homelessness prevention assistance were screened by the Homelessness Prevention Call Center, accessed through 311 City Services, Chicago’s non-emergency helpline. The Call Center tracks assistance availability and makes referrals to local agencies that provide financial assistance for back rent, utilities, clothing, and food for people facing an unforeseen financial emergency.

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Interim Housing and Rapid Re-housing. Interim housing is the new model of short-term housing. The goal of the program is to re-house homeless individuals and families within 120 days. This is a shift from traditional “housing ready” shelter models because the services focus on client stabilization, housing assessment, and placement. Since 2003, Chicago has added 2,200 interim housing beds (which turnover more quickly), replacing 2,800 emergency and transitional shelter beds. In 2006, 66 percent of permanent housing placements were made within 120 days. Despite the signs of progress, challenges remain with implementing the new model, particularly with finding the appropriate, affordable housing match for the homeless household.

Housing Locator Program. The city implemented the Housing Locator Program to fund four agencies that provide city-wide assistance for placement into private market housing. The housing locator staffs contribute to and share a searchable housing database to help homeless households with barriers to housing find affordable housing units. Since 2006, nearly 400 households have been placed in permanent housing through this program. In addition to the city’s program, many homeless service agencies have added a housing locator component to their staffs.

Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund. The Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund administers a rental subsidy program, which is funded by city, state, and federal dollars. A portion of the new funding from the state will provide housing subsidies to approximately 750 homeless households. The City is targeting these subsidies to households that are currently experiencing long-term homelessness. The Trust Fund also received Chicago’s first HUD Samaritan Initiative grant in 2005 to help them serve 204 chronically homeless individuals through 14 community partners.

Permanent Housing with Short-Term Support. Transitional housing providers are converting their approach to ensure that after a two-year period of rental support and supportive services, households transition in place and assume the lease on their own. Approximately 310 families are currently housed utilizing this model.

Permanent Supportive Housing. Affordable housing linked with supports, such as mental health services and addiction treatment, are a key initiative outlined in Chicago’s plan to end homelessness. Since 2003, over 2,000 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless people have been added to the system. In addition, close to 700 new units of supportive housing for singles and families are currently under development.

Outcomes

Chicago’s plan is beginning to show results. From 2005 to 2007, the city’s total homeless count went down 12 percent, from 6,715 to 5,922. Homelessness among single adults decreased 4 percent, from 4,038 to 3,870. Homelessness among families decreased 23 percent from 2,677 to 2,052.