Report: Chicago’s Homeless Population More Than 80K in 2015

A number of tents line the Lawrence Avenue underpass on a winter night in 2016. (Chicago Tonight)A number of tents line the Lawrence Avenue underpass on a winter night in 2016. (Chicago Tonight)

Chicago’s homeless population was 82,212 in 2015, according to figures released Wednesday by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

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That number was previously estimated to be more than 125,000, based on data provided by Chicago Public Schools and analyzed by the nonprofit organization.

Recognized as one of the primary sources for data on the city’s homeless population, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless last year restructured its methodology for conducting its homeless count. Details about the revised approach will be discussed Thursday afternoon at a press conference.

The 2015 figures include data on the “doubled-up” population in Chicago, a term commonly used by federal and state agencies that refers to individuals who seek shelter with friends and relatives because they lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. The organization used U.S. Census data to determine the amount of people who fell into the doubled-up category.

According to a statement from Julie Dworkin, the director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, it’s a population that is “largely overlooked because it does not meet the limited definition of homelessness by the [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development].”

In 2015, 82 percent of the more than 82,000 homeless individuals in Chicago were doubled-up; among the city’s 10,000 homeless families that year, about 87 percent were doubled-up.

Chicago conducts its own homeless count each year – separate from the efforts of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The city’s figures for 2015, based on a count conducted on the night of Jan. 22, 2015, found there were 6,786 people on the streets and in shelters who identified as homeless.

According to the coalition, the city plans to announce a new housing program for Chicago’s “doubled-up” population at Thursday’s press conference. The program would begin in the fall.

In a story reported last month by Chicago Tonight, Dworkin said the coalition was working with the city to finalize how to spend $900,000 allocated toward homeless programing. The funds are a result of a 4-percent surcharge on Airbnb and home-sharing services throughout the city that was passed by City Council last June.

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