Years of Advocacy Leads to Recognition of Housing Needs for Highly Vulnerable Households
On July 19, Chicago announced its plan for how it would spend federal relief funds designated for homelessness as well as city bond funding it had allocated for permanent supportive housing. The plan included 35 units of permanent supportive housing for people living doubled-up or staying temporarily with others due to economic hardship. In addition, there are 35 units for returning residents and 11 units for survivors of gender-based violence that allow eligibility for people living doubled-up.
In Chicago in 2019, 71% of the 58,000 people experiencing homelessness were living doubled-up. Although this is the most common form of homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not recognize this living situation as homeless and therefore does not allow access to homeless-specific housing resources for those living doubled-up. The result has been that many of these families cycle between staying in shelters and other people’s houses for years or end up leaving the city altogether.
“People experiencing homelessness as doubled-up are often caught in limbo, with no good place to turn for safe, permanent housing and supports. That is why the City of Chicago’s proposal is so important. It not only recognizes the needs of this large population of people experiencing homelessness, but also shows that with flexible funding, cities and states can creatively address their needs. What Chicago is doing is a model for the rest of the country,” said Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
Research has shown that families living doubled-up have the same vulnerabilities and the same housing needs as those in shelters or on the streets. In fact, they are largely the same families. In an analysis of data from 2013-2017, the Inclusive Economy Lab found that between 49-58% of households served in our shelter system were previously living doubled-up.
“Children in families who experience homelessness while living doubled-up with friends or relatives suffer many of the same immediate and long-term health risks as children who experience literal homelessness: developmental delays, lack of school readiness, academic failures, behavioral and mental health problems, and chronic, stress related diseases during adulthood. We are very pleased that the City of Chicago has recognized the harms and is taking initial steps to build permanent housing to help some of these children and families,” said Nancy Heil, MD, FAAP, member of the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.
Inclusion of these units in the plan is a big change for the city. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has been advocating for years for the city to use more flexible funding to serve this population, but with HUD’s strong preference for serving people that meet their definition of homelessness, it has been hard to break through.
The plan will be submitted to HUD for approval in early August and developers for the units will be selected in 2023.