Three times as many people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago this year as migrant numbers surged (2024)

Nearly 19,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago in January, more than three times as many as last year, as the city struggled to manage the thousands of newly arrived migrants in its shelter system.

An annual city survey released Friday — a snapshot of estimated homelessness in Chicago on a single night — found that 18,836 people were without permanent housing on Jan. 25, up from 6,139 the year before.

The survey numbers are based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of homelessness, which includes unhoused people and those living in shelters.

A majority of the increase was driven by thousands of new migrants’ arriving in Chicago and needing shelter. The migrants have been facing delays in getting work permits, if they qualify for the permits at all, a critical step in obtaining housing.

While the city has “steadily continued to work to prevent and end homelessness,” this year’s count “reflects an increased need for housing and homeless services,” not only in Chicago, but also across America, said Maura McCauley, managing deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

There were 13,679 new arrivals living in Chicago’s shelters the night the survey was conducted, an increase from the 2,176 living in shelters in January 2023, according to the survey. There were also 212 migrants living completely unsheltered this year, compared with 20 last year, the survey said.

The large increase showed that the migrants and the city were “dealing with a lot of hardship” earlier this year and that the city, Cook County and the state have tried to add resources to address “this unprecedented influx,” said Doug Schenkelberg, the executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Some 43,058 migrants have come to Chicago since 2022, whenTexas Gov. Greg Abbott begansending people to Democratic cities across the country.

“Back in January, we were sheltering close to 14,000 asylum-seekers from the southwest border. What it reflects is over the last year we have been building this capacity to add five times the number of shelter beds to our system and in a short window of time,” McCauley said. “Fortunately, you see the majority of those asylum-seekers were in shelter, and if we hadn’t really met that moment, we would have seen a large, unprecedented increase in our unsheltered population.”

The increases also went beyond the migrant population. Overall, the number of homeless people outside the migrant population rose to 4,945 from 3,943 the previous year, according to the survey — 3,523 people in shelters and 1,422 unsheltered people, compared with 2,973 in shelters and 970 unsheltered people last year.

“That number, that’s really concerning,” Schenkelberg said, speaking of the roughly 25% increase.

The city said the number of nonmigrants living in the shelter system rose 18% from last year. It said the increase was driven by expanded winter bed access, new programs, increases in bed capacity in shelters and the arrivals of more people, especially families, in the homeless system as more coronavirus pandemic support policies expired last year.

There was also a 65% increase in the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. The city said the increase was driven by improvements in counting methodology in encampments and on public transit.

Of the population experiencing homelessness who were not migrants, 72% were Black, while Black people make up 30% of Chicago’s population, according to the city data.

Since January, the number of migrants living in Chicago’s shelters has fallen significantly, to 6,937 as of Friday, after the city began enforcing policies that limit shelter stays.

“But it doesn’t necessarily mean that their problems are taken care of. The vast majority still don’t have access to work permits, which is a federal issue,” Schenkelberg said.

Schenkelberg said the point-in-time count as a measure of homelessness “is limited to begin with, because you’re surveying just people who you find in the shelter system or on the streets and one night in January.”

“So it’s always going to be an undercount of the real size of homelessness,” he said.

The survey also does not include people temporarily staying with others, which organizations like the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless have said account for a majority of people experiencing homelessness in the city.

While the number of migrants in shelters may be down, “homelessness has been a crisis for decades and the influx of asylum-seekers raises the profile of the issue, but it’s not a new issue,” Schenkelberg said.

Daniella Silva

DaniellaSilva is a national reporter for NBC News, focusing on immigration and education.

Three times as many people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago this year as migrant numbers surged (2024)


Three times as many people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago this year as migrant numbers surged? ›

Nearly 19,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago in January, more than three times as many as last year, as the city struggled to manage the thousands of newly arrived migrants in its shelter system.

How many people are experiencing homelessness in Chicago? ›


The 2022 PIT Count estimated a total of 3,875 people experiencing homelessness in Chicago. The count identified 2,612 individuals experiencing homelessness residing in shelters and 1,263 people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (See Figure 1).

When did homelessness begin in Chicago? ›

The problem of large numbers of chronically homeless individuals, however, first developed at the close of the nineteenth century, a product of both Chicago's massive industrial growth and its position as the nation's railroad hub.

What state has the highest rate of homelessness? ›

Data is based on point-in-time count that occurred during January 2023. In terms of raw numbers, California had the highest number of people experiencing homelessness of any state: 181,399. New York had the nation's second-most with 103,200, followed by Florida with 30,756.

How many migrants have arrived in Chicago? ›

New Arrivals Situational Awareness Dashboard

Since August 31, 2022, the City of Chicago has welcomed over 43,000 new arrivals from the southern border. The following dashboard reflects current and historical data regarding the City's new arrivals response.

What is the number one reason for homelessness? ›

Lack of income is the most direct, apparent cause of homelessness. If you don't have a job, you can't pay rent—simple as that.

How much does Chicago spend on homelessness? ›

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.

When was Chicago gentrified? ›

The beginning of gentrification in Chicago dates back to urban renewal in the 1950s and 1970s during which time an exodus of white middle-class families (known as “white flight”) left the urban core for the suburbs.

Why does Japan have no homeless? ›

Most people who are homeless in Japan are men, who are usually expected to be independent, and their failure to do so is considered an embarrassment by both the public and themselves. Because of this social stigma, it's harder to be homeless in Japan than in any other country.

What country has the least homeless? ›

20 Countries with the Lowest Homeless Population in the World
  • Denmark. ...
  • Ireland. ...
  • Finland. ...
  • Japan. Homeless Population (2020): 3,992. ...
  • Norway. Homeless Population (2016): 3,909. ...
  • Slovenia. Homeless Population (2019): 3,799. ...
  • Israel. Homeless Population (2020): 3,471. ...
  • Costa Rica. Homeless Population (2020): 3,387.
Mar 28, 2024

Which state has the most homeless in 2024? ›

One state accounted for close to a third of the nation's homeless population, according to an annual report. May 15, 2024, at 7:00 a.m. California alone accounted for nearly 30% of all homelessness in America, based on 2023 estimates of the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress.

What is the homeless rate in Illinois? ›

By the numbers: The HUD snapshot suggests Illinois' homelessness rate in 2023, 9.5 people per 10,000, is up from 8 in 2019, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng write.

How many homeless students are in Chicago? ›

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) reported serving 17,700 homeless students during the 2022-23 school year. In February 2024, CPS identified 24,157 students experiencing homelessness. This represents a 57% one-year increase and is the highest number of students that CPS has ever identified.

How many Chicago residents live in poverty? ›

More than 450,000 Chicagoans suffer through poverty every day, at a rate of 17.2%.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Corie Satterfield

Last Updated:

Views: 6600

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Corie Satterfield

Birthday: 1992-08-19

Address: 850 Benjamin Bridge, Dickinsonchester, CO 68572-0542

Phone: +26813599986666

Job: Sales Manager

Hobby: Table tennis, Soapmaking, Flower arranging, amateur radio, Rock climbing, scrapbook, Horseback riding

Introduction: My name is Corie Satterfield, I am a fancy, perfect, spotless, quaint, fantastic, funny, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.