A one-night count of the homeless in Evanston last month found a few more people considered homeless, but fewer of them actually sleeping on the street than two years earlier.

The count, conducted by volunteers and staff members from local housing agencies, was presented to the City Council’s Human Services Committee Monday night.

It showed that the survey located 127 people this year, compared to 116 during a similar survey two years ago.

This year 57 people reported they slept in the street or a park or train station, compared to 65 in the earlier study.

This year 40 said they had found a temporary place to stay with friends, while only 17 said that two years ago.

Suzanne Calder, the chair of the Evanston Alliance on Homelessness, told the committee that the group was formed in the mid-1990s when the federal government required communities seeking federal funding to help the homeless form such a group.

The alliance has about 40 social-agency members and currently four of its member agencies receive nearly $1 million a year in federal funds to aid the homeless.

Calder said the group is considering becoming part of a suburban Cook County group addressing homeless issues, which has professional staffing the local group lacks and access to a larger federal funding pool.

Paul Selden, executive director of Connections for the Homeless, told the committee that in addition to people in Evanston living on the street, another 350 to 400 people are housed in homeless shelters or nursing homes with no arrangements for stable housing and 350 to 500 more are “doubled-up” with family or friends but with no stable housing.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. Homeless count
    Interpreting the biennial homeless count requires a deeper understanding of the issues than were presented in your article. The notion that there were fewer people living on the street in this years count is technically true but factually false. First of all, the overall count is up. This count includes individuals who did not spend the previous night in Evanston. From the point of view of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), such individuals do not count. From our point of view, they do. By and large these individuals spend their days in Evanston and receive services in Evanston, and have most often lived in Evanston their entire lives, but at night they ride the trains or go out to O’Hare where they find a some place to sleep. Secondly, while more individuals indicate that they spent the previous night staying with a friend, it is important to understand that that most often means that they staid in a friend’s garage or in a basement or on a landing in a friend’s building. It does not mean that they were not homeless. Finally, it is important to understand that this is a “point in time” count. While there is a significant group of individuals who live on the street for long periods of time (often for years), there is a much larger group who are there for a short period of time–sometimes weeks or months but less than a year. The point in time count showed that half of the individuals in the count were chronic–i.e. long time street dwellers. The other half were transitional homeless. Our figures based on several years of data show that over the last ten years the number of homeless appearing on the street is exploding. In 2007 we worked with 276. In 2008 we worked with 400, and in 2009 we are expecting to work with nearly 500. This means that there has been an explosion of transitional homeless. There is no way to see this in a point-in time count.

    One last comment: for me the most troubling statistic in this years point in time count is the number of women that appeared in the count. The last time we did this, women constituted approximately 25% of the population. This year they are over a third.

  2. How do we help the homeless?
    Giving money to homeless on the street does not seem to help. Is there any way to help them find a job to get on their feet?

    1. Connections for the Homeless – EntryPoint
      Connections for the Homeless (see the website linked above) has a local number you can call free of charge 1-800-439-6691 to have a social worker meet with the individual you are concerned about and offer them the services available in Evanston, including both immediate assistance and case management. When I worked in retail downtown, they were an invaluable resource. Donating money to this charity and calling on them for services does a lot of good.

      Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and 75,000 Hours

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