Chicago received an “F” for efforts to provide housing and support to its homeless families and students, with more than 13,000 families without a home at some point during the 2014-15 school year, according to a report card released on Nov. 18.
During that academic period, nearly half (47 percent) of these 13,000 families were homeless for more than a year, and over half (56 percent) moved two to three times in three years, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) reported. Chicago provided permanent and affordable housing to only an average of 123 families a year, the report card said.
Homelessness can have profound impacts on students, disrupting their education and development. CCH found that more than two-thirds of homeless children (68 percent) struggle to even get to school, citing the costs, distances, time and safety, and 66 percent behave negatively in school, such as by disrupting classes, fighting and withdrawing.
“My 8-year-old last year was doing so well in school that they wanted to skip up a grade level. Now, his reading comprehension and his math are not up to level. Homelessness is a major distraction,” Latoya Ellis, a mother of three, said in a summary of the report card. “My kids are going through a lot. When they should be focused on class, they are worrying about ‘when are we getting our own place?’”
CCH called for a new plan that would support Chicago’s homeless families by creating more affordable housing. It proposed, for example, adding 500 housing units within the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund and better support for homeless students. The coalition also called for revisions to policies on homeless students in the Chicago Public Schools.
“We are failing the most vulnerable children and families in our city,” Eithne McMenamin, CCH associate policy director, said in the summary. “As they struggle to stabilize their lives, the severe shortage of affordable housing and lack of support services cripples families as they attempt to move out of homelessness and provide stability for their families.”
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization, works on public policies that seek to end homelessness. It is supported in part by funding from the Marguerite Casey Foundation.