CHICAGO (STMW) – The number of homeless people in suburban Cook County dropped by almost 10 percent since 2009, according to a count in January, but advocates fear the dip could be temporary.
A biannual count conducted Jan. 27 by the Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County totaled 1,080 homeless in the area, according to a report released by the organization.
Advertisement that figure includes up to 150 people that volunteers found sleeping in places such as forest preserves or under viaducts, as well as 930 in area shelters or transitional housing.
Fifty three of the 150 “unsheltered” persons were reported during the following two weeks by agencies who believed their clients were homeless on Jan. 27, said Hallan Hanson, program coordinator.
On the single night in 2009, 1,034 were counted in shelters or transitional housing, among a total of 1,190 homeless on that date.
In 2007 the total was 1,237. Figures from 2005 were not immediately available and were not comparable because of methodology changes, Hanson said.
The agency credits the drop to funding that was part of the 2009 federal stimulus program. The program brought $6.9 million to Cook County and the communities of Berwyn, Cicero, Evanston and Oak Park, and helped more than 3,300 people who were either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, the alliance said.
The stimulus funding will end in 2012, and state money for homeless programs has been cut drastically, according to the alliance’s report.
“Although we are encouraged that fewer people were homeless in the 2011 count, we fear the worst may be yet to come,” said Jennifer Hill, executive director of the Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County. “The stimulus funding for prevention has filled an important gap, but it’s ending next year, and so many people are still struggling in this bad economy.”
The alliance’s count is consistent with that reported by Beth Nabors, executive director of Palatine-based Journeys from PADs to HOPE.
While the agency set a record with more than 1,000 individual clients during the fiscal year that ends this week, the number of homeless people served dropped by 15 percent.
Those seeking services because of “severe risk of losing their homes due to the economy or job loss or major medical problems” rose by 42 percent, she said. The agency, which serves all of northern Cook County, previously never had more than 900 clients in a year, Nabors added.
Journeys has worked hard and has been able to “get people into housing, reconnected with family and off the street in rather dramatic numbers,” she said.
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