Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220059
Story Retrieval Date: 9/20/2014 5:02:01 PM CST

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Lauren Davis/ MEDILL

Homeless onlookers gather to watch baseball outside Wrigley Field.


Illinois homeless numbers climb while nation's drop

by Lauren M. Davis
Apr 10, 2013


Jeffery Castillo, 46, stood outside Wrigley Field Tuesday watching the Cubs play the Brewers through a gate he called “the bedbug theater” on North Sheffield Avenue.
“I call myself a suspended homeless,” he said, ruffling his hair. After almost 20 years displaced, he now lives in a single residency occupancy hotel.

Castillo, at least temporarily, is off the streets, numbering him among the steadily decreasing number of homeless nationwide. But Illinois, running counter to the national trend, has seen an increase in homelessness.
A report released Tuesday by the National Alliance to End Homelessness shows total homelessness dropped 0.4 percent nationally in 2012, but climbed 1 percent in Illinois.

The largest fall was among, chronic homeless, like Castillo. These are people who have been on the streets for more than a year and have a disability, said Samantha Batko, research director at the alliance. While Illinois’ total homeless increased, its number of chronic homeless went down.
“The federal government has for a number of years now been working to end chronic homelessness,” Batko said.

“The economic factors in Illinois are worse than the country overall,” Batko said, explaining why the state is doing worse than the nation in combatting homelessness. Fair market rent went up 0.3 percent and the median household income declined from $54,644 to $53,234 in 2011, a 2.58 percent fall.

It’s harder for lower income people to access the housing market in Illinois, said Batko. The Illinois poverty rate also rose from 13.8 percent to 15 percent in 2011.
“Homelessness is not an immediate reaction,” she said. The increase in poverty and drop in income of previous years is probably what’s causing the rise.

Human service providers in Chicago are seeing a steady flow of homeless looking for care, said Amy Dworsky, senior researcher at the University of Chicago. More shelters are requiring more beds.

“You know it’s relative to the economy,” Castillo said quickly. He wasn’t surprised by the Illinois increase. He didn’t stay to see the Cubs win 3-6. He left the “bedbug theater” during the fourth and headed home.