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Get answers to some of our most

frequently asked questions. 

How many Chicagoans are homeless?

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless cited the total number of people experiencing homelessness in Chicago throughout 2017 as being 86,324. 81%--or 70,171 people--of whom lived doubled up (sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing or economic hardship). On a single night in January 2019, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services volunteers identified 5,290 people living in shelters or on the street in the city of Chicago.

How does HOW’s supportive housing work?

HOW operates under the Housing First Model, which recognizes housing as the foremost factor in improving the quality of life and ensuring the long-term success of individuals experiencing homelessness. HOW uses the city’s referral system to identify individuals and families eligible to receive HOW services. Clients are also often referred to the agency from partner organizations or learn about HOW through the agency's outreach efforts.

When a client completes an intake with the Intake Team, their immediate and long-term needs are assessed so that HOW can craft an individualized program that serves the client's unique needs and supports their long-term goals. The client is connected to the appropriate housing program and placed with the case manager that best suits their needs. Rent is subsidized and clients pay an affordable rate based on their household income.

What is affordable housing and why is it important?

Affordable housing is important both to individuals and families and to the economic vitality of communities.  For individuals and families, affordable housing provides safe shelter and stability and contributes to the wellbeing of both parents and children by freeing up funds within families’ tight budgets to spend on food and healthcare. Studies show that children in stable housing do better in school, are less likely to experience disruption in their education due to unwanted moves, and benefit from better nutrition. For parents, living in decent, affordable housing also means reduced stress due to a lessening of concerns that high housing costs will lead to foreclosure and eviction; this in turn leads to fewer physical and mental health problems and reduced absenteeism on the job.

For communities, affordable homes attract and retain employees - a selling point and a competitive advantage for area employers. Affordable homes also support the local workforce so they can live close to their jobs. Shorter commutes allow workers to spend more time with their families while the community benefits from reduction in traffic congestion, air pollution, and expenditures on roads. A healthy mix of housing options, from market- rate and affordable rental housing, single- family homes, duplexes, as well as developments for seniors, ensures opportunities for all individuals to improve their economic situation and contribute to their communities.



Where do HOW clients live?

HOW began serving women and children experiencing homelessness in Rogers Park in 1983. We have since grown from providing 8 units in Rogers Park to now managing over 400+ apartments across the city, serving women, men, and children. The HOW administrative building remains in Rogers Park but HOW households are widely distributed across the city with concentrations on the north and south sides. All of HOW’s housing is within Cook County and the agency seeks to serve as many individuals and families in the Chicago Metropolitan area as possible.

When enrolling a client into a housing program and locating a unit for them, the Intake Team takes into consideration the location of their existing community connections including their job, the school their children attend, and where their existing network of support resides.

What does success look like for clients?

In order to ensure the successful transition of clients to independence and self-sufficiency, HOW support service staff focus on three goals with every client: residential stability, increased income and access to benefits, and improved self-sufficiency and wellness. HOW serves a population with many challenges to achieving these goals, but we have found ways to identify progress and success within the range of each client’s needs and abilities.

Case managers work with every client to identify short-term and long-term goals for building stability, independence and well-being. Some of these measures of progress include retaining stable housing and successfully paying their portion of monthly rent, maintaining or gaining employment, completing educational goals such as receiving a GED or college degree, entering and maintaining recovery for addiction, receiving physical and mental health treatment, and improving grade point average and school attendance for children.

How do people graduate from HOW programs?

HOW clients graduate from HOW programs when they exit to stable, permanent housing. When they are ready to graduate and able to cover the full cost of monthly rent, clients have the option to take over their lease, previously administered by HOW, and pay rent directly to their landlord. This allows them to stay in their home and community with minimum disruption to their families’ lives as they transition out of HOW supportive programs.

How does HOW collaborate with other Chicago agencies to further the cause of ending homelessness?

HOW is an active member of the local Continuum of Care – All Chicago, and works closely with a wide array of local homeless providers on data collection efforts, technical assistance provision, and service delivery coordination. HOW is a founding member and lead agency of the Back Office Housing Collaborative, working in tandem with Renaissance Social Services and La Casa Norte. The agency is also a key participant in the Better Health Through Housing Collaborative (BHH) pilot program that seeks to house and support medically fragile individuals.

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