Chicago must maintain temporary shelters until sufficient Interim and Permanent Supportive Housing exists.
Chicago currently operates a system of temporary homeless shelters. Homeless people are placed in shelter programs for up to two years. They receive supportive services designed to "ready" them for permanent housing.
Chicago’s Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness reverses the order. The plan advocates a Housing First model of Interim and Permanent Housing. Clients stay in Interim Housing for approximately 120 days. During that time they receive case management and assistance in locating permanent housing. Once settled in permanent housing they continue to receive support services until they are fully self-sufficient.
"Housing First" is based on the theory that people receive greater benefit from services administered against the backdrop of a safe, secure home. The Plan calls to gradually replace Chicago’s temporary shelters with Interim and Permanent Supportive Housing.
The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) tracks approximately 100 temporary shelter programs in Chicago that serve homeless men, women and families. In total, these facilities provide more than 5,000 beds on any given night. Shelters vary in whom they serve and the scope of service they provide. Some shelters welcome walk-ins while others require a referral.
Those in need of shelter should contact a DFSS Community Services Center or call 3-1-1.
Emergency Response Shelters are overnight shelters that provide initial assessment of clients, information and referrals. Most shelters for single adults close during the day but family shelters remain open 24 hours. Some Emergency Response Shelters are seasonal, opening during the winter months and other times of high need. Emergency Response Shelters are meant to provide one or two night’s respite while more adequate living arrangements are made.
Transitional Shelters operate 24 hours and provide support services for families and single adults. Clients stay up to 120 days at which time they may move into Second Stage or permanent housing.
Second Stage Housing programs provide subsidized housing with supervised care and support services for families and single adults. Clients may be charged up to 30% of their income and can stay up to two years. At the end of their stay, successful clients have gained self-sufficiency and can support themselves in permanent housing.
Safe Havens are shelters with services for homeless adults who suffer severe mental illness.
Head Start for Homeless Children
Homeless children live in a state of constant turmoil. Instability takes a toll on their growth and development.
In the classroom, homeless children experience more problems than other students. They have four times the rate of developmental delays, two times the number of learning disabilities and three times as many emotional problems.
The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) links homeless shelters with Head Start programs. Through the health, social and educational services that Head Start provides, children under age five are better prepared to achieve in school and beyond.
Source: Better Homes Fund, 1999.