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Once Homeless, Thousands Living In Permanent Homes Thanks To Chicago Alliance

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Melvin Washington, who was once homeless, now has an apartment in the River North neighborhood, thanks to assistance from the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness. (Credit: CBS)

Melvin Washington, who was once homeless, now has an apartment in the River North neighborhood, thanks to assistance from the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness. (Credit: CBS)

Jim Williams (CBS) Jim Williams
Jim Williams, a native Chicagoan, co-anchors the CBS 2 Chicago Wee...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s a staggering number to consider: 6,500 people in Chicago are homeless, despite an advocacy group’s 10-year effort to end homelessness by the end of this year. But thousands of others have received help to get off the streets.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports on where the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness stands on its goal of ending homelessness, and where the group is headed.

Melvin Washington has a small apartment in the River North neighborhood, with all the touches of home, including a wall lined with Christmas cards.

“I get a bunch of them, from a very large family; nine sisters, five brothers,” he said.

Washington was homeless for two years before he moved to that apartment. Without it, he said he’d probably still be on the streets trying to find a place to stay.

He represents a victory for the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, which has been trying for years to keep people from living on the streets.

“We were one of the first communities in the whole country to have a plan to end homelessness,” said Nicole Amling, the group’s director of public policy.

It was ten years ago that the Chicago Alliance came up with that plan.

Although it hasn’t met its ultimate goal of ending homelessness, Amling said, “The plan has been very effective.”

The effort centers on moving the homeless away from temporary shelters, and into permanent homes.

“We have been able to really hold steady, and get thousands of people back into housing quickly,” Amling said.

After consistent gains, the economic downturn was a setback in recent years.

Though some homeless people refuse help, Washington accepted help five years ago when he was living on the streets.

The Chicago Alliance helped him get his apartment in River North.

“It felt like home immediately,” he said.

Washington, a part-time barber, said he needs help with his rent, but he does pay a portion of it.

The property manager at his building said Washington is a model tenant.

The Chicago Alliance said thousands of Chicagoans have started getting such help since the group came up with its plan 10 years ago. Without it, those people likely would be living on the streets.

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