Snapshot of Chicago's unhoused shows population has tripled year-over-year; migrants a factor

ByRob Hughes WLS logo
Monday, June 10, 2024
Chicago unhoused snapshot show population tripled year-over-year
The Chicago homeless population tripled from 2023 to 2024, data shows, with migrants as part of the reason. City homeless shelter capacity also grew.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- City officials said a one-night snapshot of the number of people experiencing homeless in Chicago shows the unhoused population has tripled year over year. Officials say migrants have played a big role in the growing number as well.

Morgan McLuckie, CEO of the Orange Tent Project, works hands-on and face-to-face to combat the growing issue of people experiencing homelessness and helping the people impacted.

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"We build genuine relationships and connections with people and help people who have fallen through the cracks in the larger system," she said.

She hopes that short-term help will guide people to long-term solutions, but it's an uphill battle.

The snapshot released by the city shows nearly 19,000 people experienced homelessness on a single night in January, roughly three times the number reported in the same analysis in 2023, due in large part to the influx of migrants.

"Since August of 2022, we have welcomed more than 43,000 asylum seekers who have crossed the southwest border and traveled to Chicago," said Maura McCauley, managing deputy commissioner at the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

McCauley said the city increased its shelter capacity by about five times over the same time period.

"We weren't surprised to see that we had almost 14,000 asylum seekers in shelters. So this year's count really reflects the need for continued housing and services for people experiencing homelessness," she said.

Even among non-asylum seekers, the numbers reflect a 25% increase in people experiencing homelessness year over year. The city attributes that growth to the expiration of pandemic-era support, and housing becoming less affordable.

"We need the city to take greater accountability. We need affordable housing," McLUckie said. "You can't find anything for under $1,000."

The snapshot taken in January happened right after the peak of migrants arriving in Chicago. The city said it has seen new arrivals decline since then, which could affect the snapshot in 2025.