A homeless encampment in Chicago’s Humboldt Park is pictured in February 2024. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)
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The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimates more than 68,000 people in Chicago are experiencing homelessness. That higher number includes people who are doubled up, or temporarily living in someone else’s home.

The Margarita Inn, 1566 Oak Ave., in Evanston, is now being used by Connections for the Homeless to provide housing and support services. (Credit: Medill School of Journalism)
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The hotels were originally used as temporary solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Housing advocates said the hotels are turning out to be significantly more effective than a traditional shelter approach.

Caseworkers MG Hibionada and Ell Fabricius talk to a person on the Red Line about shelter options. Fabricius and Hibionada are members of the Thresholds team on the CTA, which provides outreach and services to people sheltering on the trains. (Kathleen Hinkel / Block Club Chicago)
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The program has connected dozens of people to housing or shelter, but officials say it needs more funding and time to make a bigger impact.

(WTTW News)

In 1978, Illinois shifted from an indeterminate to a determinate sentencing system — effectively eliminating parole as most people are familiar with it. Now some advocates are calling for changes to allow inmates over 55 the chance to be paroled.

Small business owner Gia Davis gives “the last word” on why she says hiring returning citizens just makes good business sense. (WTTW News)
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About 26,000 people leave Illinois prisons each year, and many of them report having trouble finding employment once they’re home.

(WTTW News)
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The West Side nonprofit offers workforce development and mental health and substance abuse services, among other supports. Leadership said their recidivism rates are a fraction of the state average.

At HHP Lift’s Liftworks social enterprise program, participants are taught how to manufacture home goods while also learning basic workplace skills. (Courtesy of HPP Lift)
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Research shows formerly incarcerated people who maintained employment for one year after release had only a 16% recidivism rate, compared to a 52% rate for those who did not stay employed.

(WTTW News)

A 2018 report found 43% of those released from prison in Illinois will be convicted of another crime and return to prison. About a quarter of those re-offenses are for so-called “technical violations” like violating curfew or missing a meeting with a probation officer.

Orlando Mayorga delivers a talk as part of FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison. (WTTW)

Thousands of restrictive laws govern people who have been released from prison in the United States, making it difficult for them to find housing, employment and to restart life after they have done their time.

Tawana Pope is featured in FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison. (WTTW)
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Tawana Pope and Nicholas Crayton had their own unexpected journeys and challenges, but continue to push for a better life. Pope is the founder of the nonprofit Diamonds In The Making Outreach and previously had been in and out of jail, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Crayton was released from prison just last year from the Life Skills Re-Entry Center.

(WTTW News)

When it comes to paying off that debt, Black and Latino graduates are struggling. Nearly half of Black students owe an average of 12.5% more than they borrowed, according to the Education Data Initiative.

(WTTW News)
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Chris Javier, a deacon at Chinese Christian Union Church, has been working on developing safety plans for residents in the community. Going door to door, he’s been educating residents on how to keep themselves protected against the rise in hate crimes, scams and more.

(WTTW News)
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Everything about one’s experience of living in Chicago can be traced back to segregation and race, according to community leader José Rico, executive director of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Chicago.

Tonika Johnson, pictured in 2020, created the Folded Map project to correct misconceptions about certain neighborhoods in Chicago. (WTTW News)
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Since we first met Tonika Lewis Johnson in 2020, she has expanded the Folded Map project — adding workshops, a play and a movie.

A homeless encampment in Chicago. (WTTW News)

Chicago’s homeless population would receive significant funding and support from the city under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget proposal. As part of our “Firsthand: Living in Poverty” series, we take a look at how that money would be allocated.

A food pantry in Woodridge. (WTTW News)

As part of our “Firsthand: Living in Poverty” series, we hear about the current state of food insecurity in Chicago — and possible solutions to the problem.