Biennial street counts and a revised city action plan are just two tools local homeless prevention groups depend on to combat Chicago homelessness. The agencies, including the City of Chicago, say ending Chicago homelessness is their primary vision. But even though the city’s count of overall homeless people shows a 4 percent decrease since the adoption of “Plan 2.0,” other populations like homeless veterans and homeless people with mental illnesses seem to have been growing since 2009.
The reason? Officials say they can’t be sure and are relying on more system improvements, funding and programs to see if the trends improve over the next few years. Still, the city and homeless advocacy groups say Plan 2.0 and city initiatives are working.
Click the red dots on the chart below to learn more about what the city is doing to end homelessness in Chicago and what officials think about increases.
Chicago unveiled Plan 2.0 in 2012. The twenty-page brochure serves is the city’s guide to ending Chicago homelessness. Private organizations also use the plan to monitor the city’s progress in this effort.
“Chicago’s original Plan to End Homelessness, Getting Housed, Staying Housed, made impressive strides since being introduced in 2003. Plan 2.0 reaffirms the ambitious goals of Getting Housed, Staying Housed, while expanding our scope and commitment to housing Chicago’s most vulnerable residents.”
Browse the plan
Decrease in overall homelessness one year after Plan 2.0
The city gave partial credit to Plan 2.0 for an a 4 percent decrease in overall homelessness one year after the plan was implemented. But a semi-annual progress report a year later also points out that certain demographic trends stayed the same or increased. Some of those trends are highlighted throughout this story.
Browse the Plan 2.0 progress report
Growth of homeless with mental illness tough to explain
While the number of homeless people counted in Chicago decreased since 2011, the number of homeless people counted with mental illnesses has been increasing since 2009. Twenty-eight percent of Chicago’s homeless had a mental illness during 2013’s Point-in-Time counts, a federal tallying system used to count the number of homeless people in the U.S. on one January night. City officials acknowledge the trend, but can’t explain the cause.
“We noticed that uptick and we are concerned about,” said John Pfeiffer, first deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.
He said a number of reasons could explain the increase, including weather and better data collection.
Since 2011, the city has had an increase in funding for mental health services for the homeless and started new initiatives like the Homeward Bound housing facilitation program.
Next year’s planned Point-in-Time count will measure the success of these efforts.
Homeless veterans to receive additional resources
A stronger partnership with federal veteran affairs agencies can partially explain an uptick in the number of homeless veterans counted in Chicago’s 2013 Point-in-Time count, says John Pfeiffer, first deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.
“We have a theory that that is because we are partnering more closely with the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs),” Pfeiffer said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to end veteran homelessness by 2015. So the agency gave the city extra funds to provide more services to homeless veterans and to extend the Point-in-Time counts from biennially to annually. Pfieffer said this contributed to better counting.
“We think we just had a better picture,” Pfeiffer said, adding that Point-in-Time volunteers have put more effort into collecting data from homeless veterans and are working closely with the department.
But results from 2014’s Point-In-Time count, which could rate the work, are still being processed.
Mental health clinics consolidate
In 2012, Chicago reduced the number of city mental health clinics from 12 to 6. The services were consolidated, but still target people with low income and no insurance.