ONE IN FIVE OF CITY’S HOMELESS ADULTS ARE EMPLOYED, NEARLY ONE IN THREE HAVE SOME COLLEGE EDUCATION
FINDINGS DEBUNK STEREOTYPES ABOUT HOMELESSNESS AND SUGGEST WIDESPREAD VULNERABILITY TO THE PROBLEM
Chicago’s hefty homeless population includes nearly 14,000 people who are working and more than 18,000 who have been to college – countering common misconceptions that anyone who collects a paycheck or pursues an academic degree is immune from one of life’s most desperate economic straits, a new report by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) finds.
The analysis, drawn from data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the city of Chicago, estimates that the city’s homeless population surpassed 86,000 people in 2017, the latest year for which figures are available.
The exact tally of 86,324 represents an increase over CCH’s 2016 estimate, although much of that growth is attributed to a change in methodology that re-classifies some families to be homeless who were previously not considered homeless. The change was due to examining additional data that showed families headed by 18- to 24-year-olds were greatly undercounted. When those families are excluded from the new calculations, Chicago’s estimated homeless population grew by 1,724 people, or 2%, during 2017, CCH found.
According to the study released July 2, 21% of all homeless Chicago adults age 18 and older were employed at a job in 2017– totaling 13,929 wage-earners. Meanwhile, 28% of that same homeless population – equivalent to 18,365 people – had some college education or had obtained a degree.
Those figures underscore that Chicago’s shrinking supply of affordable housing is a widespread threat to all demographics, the report’s authors warn.
“This data shows that anyone can experience homelessness, particularly in a city where rapidly escalating rents in gentrifying neighborhoods have fueled the loss of housing options for lower-income families,” said Julie Dworkin, CCH Policy Director and principle researcher of the report. “It also should debunk common myths that homelessness is a risk only to those who don’t have job, aren’t trying to get an education, or otherwise brought their circumstances on themselves. That’s never been true, and this data proves it again.”
The report was released as Chicago aldermen have introduced a measure – advocated by a CCH-led campaign called Bring Chicago Home – that would dramatically increase city funding to combat homelessness. Bring Chicago Home would change the city’s one-time tax on the sale of properties from a flat rate to a graduated structure (the Real Estate Transfer Tax, or RETT). It would allocate much of the resulting revenues to build affordable housing and furnish more supportive services that would benefit people experiencing homelessness.
The proposal would rectify a glaring shortage in the amount Chicago dedicates to alleviating homelessness compared to other cities where the problem is similar in scope. In fact, among the 10 U.S. cities with the largest homeless populations, Chicago dwells near the bottom in its spending to curb homelessness.
The report also found that:
- 20,779 children were homeless, representing 24% of the estimated homeless population.
- 70,171 people, or 81% of the city’s estimated homeless population, were living “doubled-up,” meaning that they were taking shelter in another household due to a loss of their own housing.
- 22,478 people were served in the shelter system. Of those, 6,325 had been living doubled-up with family or friends at some point that year. Also, 77% of shelter residents were black, 4% other races, and 19% white and Latino, with 10% reporting themselves as Latino.
“With more than 86,000 Chicagoans embattled by homelessness, we must prioritize solutions to this massive problem, and we’re encouraged that the city’s new mayoral leadership views this is as a priority,” Dworkin said.
The majority of Chicago residents share that perspective, according to a public opinion survey conducted last year. It found that 77% of likely voters believed the city should prioritize efforts to curb homelessness. Conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, the poll also showed that two-thirds of respondents supported a RETT increase on sales of properties worth more than $1 million to fund programs to alleviate homelessness.
– Mike Truppa, Media