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Mercy Housing Lakefront

Increasing Capacity to Support Homeless Services

Over the course of the initial pilot, the shelters collectively housed more than 192,000 people, served more than 550,000 meals and transitioned nearly 450 individuals to permanent housing.

A July 2013 analysis by Chicago Coalition for the Homeless found more than 116,000 individuals without secure housing in Chicago. More than 18,000 were Chicago Public School students. In recent years, budget cuts to homeless services have overwhelmed the shelter system as demand for beds far exceeds supply. Agencies have been forced to reduce staff hours and positions, and some have cut programs or even closed their doors. Many are small, faith-based or grassroots shelters that lack resource development staff and are  challenged to pursue sufficient funding.

CFP launched the Small Shelter Fund to alleviate the strain on community-based emergency and/or transitional housing providers throughout Chicago. Launched with a local partner agency as a two-year pilot, and renewed for two additional years, the Fund invited shelters with proven track records in Chicago to participate in a competitive request for proposals process. Eligible candidates demonstrated quality service provision as well as advocacy and collaboration. Ten small shelters received operating grants to provide critical services to people experiencing homelessness. Over the course of the initial pilot, the shelters collectively housed more than 192,000 people, served more than 550,000 meals and transitioned nearly 450 individuals to permanent housing. With a wide range of services, programs targeted emergency, family (both single-parent and two-parent), returning citizen, youth and adult housing programs.

Breakthrough Urban Ministries, serving residents of Chicago’s East Garfield Park community, is an example of an agency bolstered by the Small Shelter Fund. The organization restores broken youth and family networks through critical housing and community development services. Forty-two percent of neighborhood residents live below the poverty line; the median household income is $29,687; and only 40% of eighth graders graduate academically prepared for high school. Treating every person with dignity and respect, Breakthrough Urban Ministries understands that the individuals and families they serve require much more than a bed: they need supports to achieve self-sufficiency.

As a Small Shelter Fund recipient, Breakthrough Urban Ministries was able to provide medical care at its daytime support centers, overnight housing and meals at transitional shelters and case management for permanent supportive housing. The agency’s trauma-informed model provides wraparound services in conjunction with housing and shelter to advocate on behalf of participants. These services include medical care and referrals, behavioral health care, crisis response, counseling, employment readiness, financial education and legal aid.

Through the Small Shelter Fund, CFP provides capacity and resources to agencies whose important programs are imperiled by unpredictable and diminished government funding.