Learn the latest about what is happening at HOW.

Race's Role In The COVID-19 Pandemic

Date published: April 16, 2020

By now you have likely heard the dire reports. Chicago's Department of Public Health shows that Black Chicagoans, who are 30% of the city’s population, are contracting COVID-19 at a much higher rate than any other group, and account for a staggering 68% of the attributed deaths. This means Chicago’s Black residents are dying at a rate nearly six times that of their white neighbors.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic we have seen the difficult truth that our clients, 79% of whom are African American, are most at risk. This novel coronavirus is highlighting what we know to be true from nearly four decades of work - poverty and racism are amplified in times of crisis.  And the ever-present gaps in our economy and healthcare system are receiving new attention as COVID-19 related deaths within Black populations skyrocket.  ​


That’s why one of HOW’s core values is Justice. Our work as a housing and human services organization is inextricably linked to social and racial justice. We know firsthand that racial and socioeconomic issues create huge disparities when it comes to public health, education, employment, and community investment.  ​


Housing is fundamental to stabilizing a person’s health. This fact has never been clearer than now as we face this pandemic. For our clients, all of whom have experienced housing insecurity and homelessness, a HOW apartment offers a place of refuge during the pandemic. But simply having a home is not enough. The city’s Stay-At-Home order has drawn attention to the chasm between Chicago’s well-resourced and financially secure citizens, and those who live at or below the poverty line and are reliant on supplemental resources and outside aid. These individuals and families don’t have the luxury of remaining isolated at home. Instead, they are forced to travel to local agencies and nonprofits to secure basic staples, opening an already vulnerable group up to further possible infection. ​


In tandem with HOW housing, our support services have become a necessary lifeline for many of our individuals and families across the city during this pandemic. Every day we work to support our clients and alleviate the pain and stress from the detrimental outcomes stemming from COVID-19.  And despite their stories of job loss, not being able to see their doctors, and laundry list of growing worries, the current low rate of known infection within HOW’s client population demonstrates the life-saving impact of being housed.  


While we can’t change the “high-risk” status of those we serve, we know that housing can help them defy the odds.  

Britt Shawver


Housing First

Date published: February 20, 2020

2020 marks nearly four decades of HOW creating opportunities and rebuilding lives. Back in 1983 when we first began, we worked with eight clients. In 2019, we served over 1,300 individuals.


Over the years, HOW has experienced tremendous growth. We now serve clients across Chicagoland, own and operate four buildings, provide permanent supportive and affordable housing, and offer extensive support services that include individual case management to people of all ages and genders. While so much has changed in our work, one thing has not—our commitment to the Housing First model. 



Because it works.  

The Housing First approach prioritizes just that – housing first. Losing your home is the beginning of a slow spiral downward. The most effective intervention to stop that spiral is getting housed. 

The Housing First model provides permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness and pairs it with services to help support long-term stability. Housing First pivots from alternate housing models by assuming everyone is prepared for housing, instead of conditioning housing on “readiness”. It responds to people’s most basic need: to create a stable foundation from which other issues, including ones that may have led to instability, can be addressed. Housing First creates a model that empowers individuals and fights the structural housing inequity present across the nation.    

Decades of research have established Housing First as an evidence–based and effective approach to ending homelessness. It is also the most cost-efficient solution. A 2017 research brief by the National Alliance to End Homelessness noted that the average cost to taxpayers is $35,578 when a person experiences chronic homelessness. These costs are reduced by 49.5% when that individual is placed in supportive housing. 

HOW was among the first agencies in the nation to implement Housing First and has decades of our own data to support the efficacy of this model. Consistently over 90% of HOW clients maintain stable housing while housed in our program, and over 85% remain stably housed after they leave. We know first-hand that once individuals and families find housing they have the stability they need to overcome obstacles, rebuild their lives, and become active and engaged members of our communities. And I believe this is exactly why Housing First remains the gold standard for addressing homelessness.  

Britt Shawver



Housing Opportunities for Women

1607 W Howard St.

Third Floor

Chicago, IL 60626


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