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What Is Homelessness

What is Home?

A home is not just a bed or a roof. A home is stability, security, and the foundation upon which people can build their future. A home is, quite simply, the most basic of human rights.

Every day in America, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children struggle to find a home for themselves and their families. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 842,000 Americans are homeless in any given week, with that number swelling to as many as 3.5 million over the course of a year. In Chicago alone, on any given evening, over 6,200 people – our neighbors – approach the night not knowing where they are going to sleep.

Who Is Homeless In Chicago?

There is not a single, monolithic group of people without a home. People who are struggling to find or keep a home come from all backgrounds and communities. They can generally be categorized into three groups:

  • Episodic: Individuals and families who regularly go in and out of shelters. They tend to be younger and leave shelters when they get income, or use shelters seasonally.
  • Transitional: Individuals and families who become homeless due to a housing, health care, or other financial crisis. They come into the shelter system and stay about three months and often move to stable housing.
  • Chronic: Individuals and families who have been homeless for a year or more, or four times in the last three years, many of whom use the shelter system for extend periods of time.

There are a number of sub-populations who face special circumstances in escaping homelessness, including:

  • People affected by severe mental or physical health or chronic substance use barriers;
  • Households fleeing domestic violence;
  • Ex-offenders or people released from institutions with no place to go;
  • Youths thrown out of their houses because they are lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender, pregnant, or survivors of abuse;
  • Immigrants and undocumented individuals who have difficulty securing work or housing because of lack of documentation, language and/or cultural barriers;
  • Veterans, including those experiencing post-traumatic stress disorders.

In other words, people just like you and us.

All Chicago believes that it takes the entire community working together to ensure everyone in Chicago has access to a home; for the shelter it provides tonight and the hope it provides for tomorrow.