- Chicago leaders announced their intention to put $1.1 million in funding for homeless services into the 2019 budget, which the city council is scheduled to vote on next month.
- Some funding will go toward a pilot program to support homeless residents living in encampments, with the goal of transitioning them to permanent supportive housing.
- Some funding also will go toward supporting homeless families transitioning to Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) residences.
City leaders note that the number of homeless individuals in Chicago (5,450) is a nearly 4% decrease over last year and the lowest number since 2007, according to data from the annual point-in-time count.
Homeless encampments are a phenomenon for which many U.S. cities struggle to find a satisfactory solution. San Francisco city employees have been instructed over the years to remove encampments, also called tent cities, in a controversial move to control the city's deepening homeless problem. A West Coast federal appeals court ruled last month that homeless people cannot be prosecuted for sleeping on the streets, after a long-running legal battle over a Boise, ID law banning the use of public areas as a "camping place."
Despite dipping homeless population numbers, Chicago has its own sticky situation with encampments. As in San Francisco, city workers have been instructed to remove the city's most notorious homeless encampments and at one this summer they then put up a fence to keep out future inhabitants. Controversy erupted last year when police became involved with enforcing the removal of an encampment in a viaduct. A back-and-forth battle ensued for months as some homeless people went back to the site to protest what they said is a lack of homeless services in the city.
Chicago's goal to get encampment inhabitants into permanent supportive housing is a holistic tactic that more cities are trying in an attempt to achieve greater long-term success with mitigating homelessness. The northern Seattle suburb of Shoreline, WA is one of the most recent to announce a plan for permanent supportive housing.