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Homelessness in Chicago

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Homelessness in the City of Chicago Homelessness is a very serious problem in every major city in the United States, especially Chicago. Over the course of a year, between 2.3 and 3.5 million people experience homelessness nationwide and approximately 166,000 people experience homelessness in the Chicago Metropolitan area. (CCH) These numbers are astounding, but as a resident of the city I know firsthand that our city has an extraordinary amount of homeless. While the homeless face a daily struggle to stay alive, society turns its back on them. You should you ask yourself, "How do I react when I see a homeless person?" Throughout this essay, I will examine the history, causes and most importantly, what the City of Chicago is doing to help these people. History of Homelessness in Chicago Homelessness has been a part of Chicago since the early days of Fort Dearborn. (Slayton) However, it wasn't until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, that it became an issue to serious to ignore. The fire that swept through the city left over 300 people dead while the damage to the city's buildings left 90,000 Chicagoans on the streets. With so many with so little, it was clear that rebuilding was going to be a long and difficult road. Eventually, the city recovered from the fire and became the hub for the meat-packing industry in the United States. ...read more.


Even public housing authorities make judgments as to who is eligible, barring many with any prior criminal history. (CCH) Many veterans of the armed forces who have fought for our country are no strangers to homelessness. Throughout the war in Vietnam, 58,000 soldiers died. That is nothing compared to the approximately 300,000 veterans who are homeless. It's shameful that the government can't come up with a plan or the funding to take care of the people who risked their lives to defend our country. The programs that are intended to serve homeless veterans are consistently under-funded. In Illinois, only 158 beds funded through the VA's Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program are available for almost 20,000 homeless veterans. (CCH) If the government doesn't take care of their soldiers when they need them most, why should the common man serve his country? Alcohol and Drugs have always been a serious problem among homeless people. Researchers estimate that between 10 to 15 percent of homeless people have drug problems. (Momeni, 64) Many feelings such as loneliness, depression and hopelessness can lead to the abuse of drugs and alcohol. This is a complex problem, not only does the user lose motivation and hope, but because they are homeless, many drug treatment facilities will not offer their help. The majority of homeless are forced to the streets through a sequence compounding circumstances. ...read more.


The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports that on any given night the number of homeless is probably much closer to 21,000. (Olivio) Homelessness isn't always short-term, the average length of homelessness in Chicago is between 6 and 8 months. (US Conf. of Mayors) If these figures are anywhere near correct, the city isn't anywhere near removing homelessness completely by their target date. In conclusion, it isn't just the city of Chicago that has a problem with homelessness. The numbers are impossible to ignore, our entire country is suffering. Luckily, I've never had to sleep on the street, and I couldn't begin to imagine what it would be like. Anyone born with any human dignity can understand that nobody deserves to live that way. In national and local politics, homelessness isn't even an issue. You never see candidates using their time addressing the issue. Groups such as the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless are the only hope these people have. Although the city's program for the homeless was recently described as 'exemplary' in the United States Conference of Mayors, it doesn't even seem satisfactory. Homelessness is a very serious problem and it is our duties as Chicagoans to make sure that our politicians make it a priority. In the news today, all you hear about is beautifying and improving our city through public transportation improvements, or winning the bid for the Olympic Games in 2016. Quite honestly, there are many more important issues we as a city are faced with. ...read more.

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