Chicago’s waiting list for permanent supportive housing reaches 20,546 households

By Julie Dworkin, CCH Director of Policy

In 2012, the Chicago Continuum of Care launched a new waiting list for homeless people in Chicago wanting to access permanent housing options. The list, called the Central Referral System or CRS, rates heads of household according to a “Vulnerability Index” which puts those most vulnerable at the top of the list.

Vulnerability is defined for single individuals as those ”who will face an increased risk of mortality if homelessness persists.” For families, vulnerability is defined by “length of literal homelessness and residential instability, involvement with child welfare and/or informal separation from children, number of children, and trauma history.” 

As of December 31, 2014, the number of households on the list was 20,546. Of those, 2,592 were unaccompanied homeless youths between the ages of 18 to 24, while 8,017 were families with children.

Since placements began in December 2012, 749 households have been placed in housing.

At that rate, it will take 54 years before all waiting households would be placed.

It is clear that we need to greatly increase affordable housing options in Chicago if we want to meet President Obama’s ambitious goals to end veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2015, and family and youth homelessness by the end of 2020.

In fact, homelessness for families with children is on the rise. In Chicago’s 2014 point-in-time count of homeless people living in shelters and on the street, family homelessness increased by 11%. The number of homeless children and youth enrolled in Chicago Public Schools increased 18.6% during the 2013-14 school year. The 22,144 homeless students reflect 5.5% of enrollment in CPS-run schools.

Leaders in our city and state need to recognize this challenge and make ending homelessness a priority, despite our serious fiscal problems. Governor Rauner should maintain funding for homeless services and include $200 million in the state’s next capital budget for affordable housing.

Mayor Emanuel should keep the city ‘s commitment to dedicate $35 million in TIF funding for the purchase and rehab of foreclosed properties, ensuring that a portion of those properties are affordable to homeless households. In addition, the mayor should ensure passage of amendments to the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance, which will increase funds dedicated to affordable housing, committing a percentage of those funds to housing for homeless families.