The onset of winter means growing concerns for Chicago’s homeless population.
The city of Chicago has been partnering with Hotel Julian downtown, paying for 175 rooms to house those experiencing homelessness amid the pandemic. Alderpeople recently extended this partnership into February. But is it enough?
State Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, who represents the northwest side of Chicago, is a part of the Illinois Housing Committee which has been reviewing homelessness. They have been, in part, discussing the “unprecedented opportunity” to address homelessness with American Rescue Plan dollars at the state level.
“We are trying to make some serious headway on medium-term issues, but also to make sure we are saving lives this winter and next,” LaPointe said.
LaPointe worries the diminished emergency shelter bed capacity could have a detrimental impact.
“We have seen an uptick in homelessness [on the northwest side] and that's an area that is, compared to some other parts of the city, relatively stable,” LaPointe said. “The city's emergency shelter bed capacity is inadequate, and there's lots of us that are very concerned that people are going to die because of it.”
Susan Reyna-Guerrero, executive director of Covenant House Illinois, a nonprofit organization serving youth ages 18-24 experiencing homelessness, is in the midst of ramping up their programming to house more youth.
“We know there’s a huge gap in resources available for young people that are homeless at this point in Chicago,” Reyna-Guerrero said. “On any given night, there’s anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 homeless young people. ... What makes it very difficult to get a good number is that a lot of them may be on the street, or they are couch-surfing or doubled up, which means maybe they have a bed tonight, but not tomorrow.”
But, according to Guerrero, there are only currently about 300-375 beds dedicated to homeless young people to respond to that need.
Covenant House Illinois recently moved to a new facility on the West Side and is looking to increase from their current 12 overnight shelter beds to 40 by next year.
LaPointe noted that many of the rooms in Hotel Julian that the city pays for go vacant.
“It’s troubling,” LaPointe said. “One of the big gaps is on-the-ground outreach, and making sure that our human service workers, employed by either the city or nonprofits, come out to the neighborhoods and really meet people where they’re at, build that relationship and talk to them about getting into Hotel Julian. That’s not happening as much as it should right now.”
Contact Acacia Hernandez: (773) 509-5518 | [email protected]