How many Chicagoans are homeless?

How many Chicagoans are homeless?

‘Bring Chicago Home’ advocates claim there are 68,000 homeless Chicagoans, but that’s 10 times higher than the estimate recognized by the federal government. If the problem is exaggerated, what will Mayor Brandon Johnson do with his tax hike money?

“Bring Chicago Home” advocates say hiking the real estate transfer tax on million-dollar properties will help 68,000 homeless residents, but how did they arrive at that number?

Where that number came from

The 68,000 estimate comes from a report by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The report mentioned two ways of estimating the number of homelessness residents:

  • Point-in-time count (PIT): a survey of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals. For 2023 the number was 6,139.
  • Homeless Management Information System (HMIS): A database used by organizations and agencies that work with people experiencing homelessness to collect and share information about their clients. It estimates 68,000.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development uses PIT for their Annual Homelessness Assessment Report. By this measure, 6,139 residents were experiencing homelessness in 2023, which has changed little since 2007. According to the coalition’s own report, PIT is the traditional way to assess homelessness.

“The Point-in-Time (PIT) method is the traditional way the Department of Housing and Urban Development counts people that are unhoused,” the report states.

But Bring Chicago Home advocates never mention the PIT estimate on their website, only the HMIS estimate that produces an estimate larger by ten-fold. HMIS broadens the scope of people to include those temporarily staying with others.

Bring Chicago Home treats the number as a universal truth, and doesn’t call it an estimate.

Chicago Teachers Union President Stacey Davis Gates claims there are 20,000 unhoused students in the city, a subset of “Bring Chicago Home’s” 68,000 estimate. CTU’s new contract demands include taxpayer-funded housing assistance for teachers averaging nearly $100,000.

Chicago doesn’t even spend all of the money for homelessness it currently has, with $44 million unspent from federal pandemic funds for the homeless and $200 million in the city budget for homeless relief.

The March 19 proposal asking voters to raise the real estate transfer tax contains no guarantee the money will be spent on homeless relief. If Johnson gets the extra $100 million he predicts from his tax hike, what are the chances it will be spent on the homeless if the city’s already failing to manage the $244 million already on hand for the problem?

Paid for by Vote No on Chicago Real Estate Tax

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