Chicago City and community leaders today unveiled “Text to Connect to End Homelessness” (773-786-9916), a texting platform designed to help more people experiencing homelessness find pathways to housing and services. Those experiencing homelessness as well as people who want to help them can use this new feature, which also will aid policymakers planning for long-term solutions to end homelessness.
“The underpinning of ‘Text to Connect to End Homelessness’ is Coordinated Entry, which we have embraced in Chicago,” said Betsy Benito, Director of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) in Illinois. “Coordinated Entry allows us to effectively assess people experiencing homelessness and match them to homes, and now ‘Text to Connect,’ will capture even more information in real time so homeless individuals and families have direct access to a housing needs assessment and a clear path to ending their homelessness.”
Text to Connect does not replace Chicago 3-1-1 for non-emergency services, but is a direct way to link yourself or others to housing assessments in Chicago and Suburban Cook County. The ultimate goal is not only to better identify those unsheltered, but also to continuously strengthen information and coordination among all organizations involved in helping people experiencing homelessness.
“Working to ensure every Chicagoan has a roof over their head and the services they need to thrive is a shared responsibility, and the key to our city’s economic success,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Partnerships like this one demonstrate the City and the community coming together to empower vulnerable Chicagoans experiencing homelessness and provide the needed range of quality housing options.”
Text to Connect to End Homelessness was initiated by CSH, which reached out to individuals and families with lived experience in homelessness and consulted local partners including Catholic Charities, All Chicago Making Homelessness History, Center for Housing and Health, Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County and other community-based nonprofits and City of Chicago agencies.
“We anticipate this will be especially helpful for people not yet connected to any homeless program currently operating within our Continuum of Care,” said Dave Thomas, Vice President of Community Partnerships at All Chicago Making Homelessness History.
When a person uses Text to Connect, they will reach a brief, automated housing needs assessment that will ask basic questions like location in order to identify the closest point of help, which includes emergency shelter when necessary.
The information in the text and web platform will stay current even as the system expands and changes and will use special codes to several public hotspot, which will inform where needs are the highest and will support better outreach efforts.
Text to Connect builds upon the City’s work to manage a Coordinated Entry system for those in need of housing, a requirement set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Coordinated Entry system is managed by a Continuum of Care network of local resources to end homelessness. The Text to Connect to End Homelessness app will build on Chicago’s Continuum of Care to help capture more people experiencing homelessness and link them to a housing needs assessment.
Since its launch in April 2017, Chicago’s Coordinated Entry has:
- Assessed nearly 17,500 people for their housing needs with a vulnerability-based tool that helps prioritize and align individuals and families for the appropriate housing referrals.
- Matched 5,278 households to available housing units dedicated to those experiencing homelessness, resulting in 2,160 successful housing placements.
- The data collected to date also points to a larger unmet need for affordable housing and service for people facing homelessness in Chicago.
“Right now, there are nine fixed Coordinated Entry locations across Chicago where people can be assessed for their housing needs,” said Benito. “Text to Connect will expand the options and allow us to identify, assess and help a lot more people facing homelessness as we make concrete plans well into the future.”
CSH credits The Chicago Community Trust for funding the work to develop Text to Connect to End Homelessness, and DataMade for creating and making the tool available for other communities to replicate.
For more information on the Connect to End Homelessness, please visit: https://connectmenow.org.