Frequently Asked Questions About Homelessness

Please call Chicago City Services at “311” or (312) 744-5000.

If you are homeless and need shelter, tell the operator that you are homeless and in need of shelter.

During the coronavirus pandemic, CCH is getting calls from people who say they do not get a referral when they call the city of Chicago’s “311” helpline. Please try again, hitting “O” to reach an operator. This is the only way to reach an operator outside of regular hours, which are 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

If you are housed but concerned that you may lose your housing, tell the operator you need “short term help.” Callers will be transferred to a Homelessness Prevention Call Center. The provider may be able to assist you in applying for a homeless prevention grant. The center is housed and operated by Catholic Charities, with services available in multiple languages.

Callers with hearing problems can access TTY equipment at (312) 948-6817.

Call (877) 426-6515 for suburban Cook County’s Rental Assistance Call Center. The center handles calls related to rent, security deposits, utilities, and mortgage assistance. It is staffed Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Line is at (855) 533-7411. It is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Call the CCH Law Project on its toll-free helpline, (800) 940-1119.

Referrals will be made available for people living outside the metropolitan area.

In Chicago, contact the Chicago Housing Authority:  Apply to the CHA’s Waitlist Portal  

For questions or more information, call the CHA at (312) 913-7400. Information is available on the estimated wait times for different properties. 

In the suburbs of Cook County, contact the Housing Authority of Cook County:  Resident and Applicant Portal 

In August 2021, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) released its annual study of how many Chicagoans are homeless. 

Using a methodology that includes the most current census data, CCH estimates that 58,273 Chicagoans were homeless in 2019. 

Seventy-one percent of these homeless residents lived doubled-up in the homes of others due to hardship, often in overcrowded conditions. 

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey, 41,330 people lived doubled-up in Chicago in 2019. Of those, 51% were black and 28% white; 31% identified as Hispanic/Latino. 

According to HMIS data provided by All Chicago, 22,182 people utilized the homeless service system. Of those, 24% reported temporarily staying with others at least once in 2019. Seventy-eight percent of all people served in the homeless service system were black, 17% white, and 2% other; 10% percent reported themselves as Hispanic/Latino. 

Of the 17,150 people in families with children, 11,651 (68%) were doubled-up. 

A total of 12,913 were minor children experiencing homelessness. 

Unaccompanied homeless youth, ages 14 through 24, totaled 13,966 individuals, of whom 12,706 (91%) doubled-up. 

Of the 26,206 homeless single adults (25 and older), 16,426 (63%) were doubled-up. 

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) reported serving 10,836 homeless students during the 2020-21 school year. This is the lowest number of students identified as homeless by CPS since the 2007-08 school year, when 10,624 students were identified. This decrease likely represents a decrease in identification of students during the pandemic, not a true decrease in students experiencing homelessness. 

This was 21.6% decrease, or 3,002 students, fewer than the prior school year. While the overall CPS enrollment dropped by 4%, the decrease in the numbers of students experiencing homelessness was more than 5 times the overall decrease. The share of homeless students enrolled in CPS is 3.1 % of total enrollment. 

CPS data shows that 91% of homeless CPS students live doubled-up in the homes of others due to hardship, usually in overcrowded conditions. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes that doubled-up students should be counted as homeless, with rights protected under the McKinney-Vento Act. 

Another 7%, or 761 students, lived in shelters. Another 1.5% of students lived in motels (172), and 0.29% (32) lived in a car or other public place. 

Chicago’s homeless students are overwhelmingly children of color, at 98%. While 76% of homeless students were black, they comprise only 35.9% of citywide enrollment. Homeless enrollment was also 20.6% Latinx, 1.2% other ethnicities, and 1.7% white. 

Other CPS data shows that 6.5% (703) were “unaccompanied youth,” defined as teens who are homeless and living on their own, without a parent or guardian. Another 24.5% of students were diagnosed with disabilities or developmental delays. 

Estimating people experiencing homelessness is limited to what is documented. Any Illinois estimate of people experiencing homelessness should be observed as homelessness that is captured in data, and no one data source is a complete reflection of all homelessness.  

  • Point-in-Time: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports 10,431 Illinois residents were unsheltered, staying an emergency shelter, or living in transitional housing on a single night of the year in 2020. The traditional Point-in-Time method for enumerating homelessness tallies people experiencing street and shelter homelessness on a designated night of the year, but it fails to account for those temporarily staying with others. Point-in-Time methodology dramatically undercounts homelessness and points to the wrong policy solutions.  
  • Accessing Services: The Illinois Department of Human Services tallied 50,991 people receiving services in FY 2020: 30,900 received Emergency and Transitional housing services, 11,060 received Supportive Housing services, and 9,031 people received Homeless Prevention services.   
  • School Enrollment: A report by the Illinois State Board of Education tallied 49,596 students experiencing homelessness enrolled in Illinois public and charter schools in FY 2020. This is likely an undercount due to the COVID–19 pandemic making it difficult to identify students experiencing homelessness.  
  • Temporarily Staying with Others (or “doubling-up”): Using data from the American Community Survey, administered by the U.S. Census, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimates 146,893 people experienced homelessness by temporarily staying with others in Illinois.   

Families and unaccompanied youth seldom stay on the street or in a shelter. Prior to the COVID–19 outbreak, 13,663 people experiencing homelessness were single unaccompanied youth (age 14-24) and 91% of whom temporarily stayed with others.   

In total, 12,913 minors (under age 18), with or without a parent present, experienced homelessness.11 In 2019, 17,150 people in families with children were experiencing homelessness and 68% were temporarily staying with others. HMIS data suggest that 495 households experienced street and shelter homelessness in families headed by youth (age 14-24).  

The Chicago Point-in-Time survey asks if the person is fleeing a violent relationship or being threatened or harmed by someone they know. In 2020, the portion of persons reporting domestic violence increased significantly among the sheltered (29.7%) and unsheltered (11.7%) populations compared to the previous two years; in 2019, 9.7% of people sheltered and 3.6% of people unsheltered were reporting domestic violence. 

An estimated 34,125 Black/African-American Chicagoans experienced homelessness throughout 2019. An estimated 14,491 Hispanic/Latiné Chicagoans experienced homelessness throughout 2019. In total, 81.1% (33,525) of people temporarily staying with others identified as Black/African-American and/or Hispanic/Latiné.  

  • Black or African-American: 34,125 (12,979 street and shelter, 21,146 temporarily staying with others)  
  • White: 14,630 (3,146 street and shelter, 11,484 temporarily staying with others)  
  • Other Race: 4,992 (0 street and shelter, 4,992 temporarily staying with others)  
  • Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander: 2,854 (173 street and shelter, 2,681 temporarily staying with others)  
  • Two or More Races, or Unknown Race: 876 (426 street and shelter, 450 temporarily staying with others)   
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: 796 (219 street and shelter, 577 temporarily staying with others)  

Chicago Public Schools reports that 98.3% of its homeless students were children of color in 2018-19. 

According to the annual Out of Reach study (June 2019) by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Housing Action Illinois, the Illinois housing wage is $20.85 an hour, 19th highest among the states. This is based on fair market monthly rent of $1,084 for a 2-bedroom apartment in Illinois, and assumes a 40-hour work week for 52 weeks a year. With the Illinois state minimum wage at $8.25 an hour for nine years (since July 2010), a household needs two minimum-wage earners working 101 hours a week to pay for a 2-bedroom’s fair market rent. Thirty-four percent of Illinois households rent, with an average hourly renter wage of $17.30. 

In Chicago and the five-county suburban area, the housing wage is $23.31 an hour for a typical 2-bedroom costing $1,212. The most expensive Illinois region is Kendall County, where the housing wage is $23.75. Minimum wage in Chicago rose to $13 an hour in July 2019.