CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 400 volunteers canvased Chicago’s streets, public transportation, 24-hour businesses and other places homeless people might gather in an annual count of the city’s homeless population Thursday night.
The results of the head count won’t be available until mid-summer, according to the city’s Department of Family and Support Services. But the survey, which is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, can have big consequences for cities which use their results to determine the amount of federal funding they get to combat homelessness.
Chicago’s homeless population has been on the decline in recent years.
In 2019, the city’s homeless population fell for the fourth year in a row — down to 5,290 total homeless from 6,787 in 2015. That’s a 22 percent drop over four years.
That decrease follows then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2014 promise to “end veteran homelessness by 2015.” With the help of $5 million each year in federal funding, that program promised to create three dozen “permanent supportive housing units” for homeless vets, among other changes such as additional case workers and rental subsidies.
While that program didn’t completely eliminate veteran homelessness in Chicago, the number of homeless vets in the city has decreased since that plan was announced in September 2014.
At that time, there were 721 reported homeless veterans in Chicago. In 2019, there were about 560 — a 22 percent decrease which mirrors the overall decline in homelessness in Chicago during that time.
For her part, current Mayor Lori Lightfoot aims to continue the progress under Emanuel. In October 2019, the city announced a 36 percent increase in city funding for homelessness prevention — an increase they said was the largest in history. That program also promised a 19 percent increase in affordable housing units in an effort to give affordable housing to 700 households in Chicago.