Sofas: A digital autobiography by Senior Community Organizer Wayne Richard

How many homeless people live in Chicago?

An analysis by Policy Director Julie Dworkin shows 93,780 Chicagoans were homeless in the course of the 2010-11 school year, through June 2011. This is 5.5% more than the 88,923 who were homeless in the prior school year. This estimate is based, in part, on rising enrollment of homeless students in Chicago Public Schools. CPS identified a record 15,580 homeless students in 2010-11, 97.9% of them children of color.

In the U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger & Homelessness Survey for 2010 (released Dec. 21, 2010), Chicago officials claimed that family homelessness did not increase during the year-long survey period (through August 2010). Nationally, however, the 27-city survey found family homelessness rose an average of 9%. Chicago reported that homelessness among single adults rose 11%, compared to 25% nationally. Total numbers were not cited.

How many homeless people live in Illinois?

CCH cannot prepare a statewide estimate using the methodology with which we prepare the Chicago estimate. But based on an annual report by the Illinois Department of Human Services, about 48,000 people are served in state-funded shelters each year. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) estimated in 2008-09 that 60,000 homeless students were enrolled in public schools across the state. But since the recession began, ISBE has quit providing any estimate or totals of statewide homeless enrollments.

What are the demographics of Chicagoans experiencing homelessness?

Per the 2010-11 CCH analysis, families made up 47% of Chicago’s homeless population. There were 30,978 children (33%) and 13,527 parents or grandparents (14%).

Unaccompanied youth (ages 14 to 21) made up another 11%, or 10,684 youths.

Single adults made up 42%, or 38,591 men and women.

How many unaccompanied youth lived in Chicago? 

Unaccompanied youth are teens who are homeless and living on their own, without the support of family or guardian.

CCH estimates that 10,684 youth (ages 14 to 21) made up 11% percent of Chicago’ s homeless population in 2010-11. The Chicago school system counted 3,189 unaccompanied youth living on their own and attending its schools in the 2010-11 school year.

An estimated 25,000 unaccompanied youth live in Illinois, per a comprehensive 2005 state study on which CCH collaborated. There are not nearly enough shelter beds for homeless youth.  In 2011, there were 416 youth beds across Illinois – 209 youth beds in Chicago, 117 in the suburbs, and 90 beds downstate.

What are some demographics of homeless people being served by Chicago shelters and housing programs?

For the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2010 Survey on Hunger & Homelessness, the city of Chicago reported that 24% were employed but homeless (compared to 19% nationally), 7% were veterans (14% nationally), 14.8% were physically disabled (20% nationally), 5.2% were HIV positive (3% nationally), and 21% were severely mentally ill (24% nationally).

In 2009-10, Chicago also reported having 1,484 emergency shelter beds, 4,340 transitional housing slots, and 6,948 permanent supportive housing slots.

How many homeless people are survivors of domestic violence?
Per a 2004 study, 56% of women in homeless shelters reported that they had experienced domestic violence, according to the Center for Impact Research. Domestic violence statistics were not included by Chicago in the 2010 U.S. Conference of Mayors report.

What is the racial breakdown of homeless people in Chicago?
According to a 2007 point-in-time count by the city of Chicago, the racial demographic of the homeless population was 75% African American, 16% white, 6% Latino, and 3% other ethnicity.