Quick Hit Aricka Flowers Friday June 17th, 2011, 1:47pm

Number Of The Week: 14,395

That's the number of homeless people in Illinois in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to the federal government, homelessness has gone down in the state by 7 percent since 2007. But the numbers also showed that homelessness did increase in Illinois between 2009 and 2010 by more than 300 people.

Housing advocates say the numbers, and highlighted decrease since 2007, are not truly reflective of the state of homelessness in Illinois.

"I believe this HUD report is based on point-in-time counts that are conducted every two years in January," said Julie Dwokin, director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). "We have never put too much stock in the accuracy of these counts ... The count records the number of people in shelters that night and on the street. Of course any change in the number of shelter beds available or the way the shelter beds are defined can change the count."

"What it does not count is people who are homeless, but not accessing shelter and not immediately visible on the streets, in abandoned buildings or on the CTA," she continued. "So anyone who is staying in a motel that night or sleeping on someone’s couch would not be counted."

Dwokin pointed to the Chicago Public Schools' system of counting homeless students as a more accurate snapshot of the housing problem in a small portion of the state. According to CCH numbers, there were 15,027 homeless CPS students in the 2009-2010 school year, 3,692 of them being unaccompanied by an adult. Although this is only a look at the homelessness issue within Chicago and CPS, Dworkin says it provides insight on how the numbers can change based on how the count is done.

"The numbers from the Chicago Public Schools tell a very different story," Dworkin explained. "CPS tracks the number of homeless students each year and these numbers do include people temporarily living with others because they don’t have housing. There was a 20 percent increase in homeless students in the 2009-2010 school year over the previous year."

Other notable numbers from HUD's count include a drop in homelessness by 53 percent in Michigan and some jaw-dropping increases in Louisiana and Mississippi to the tune of 127 percent and 99 percent, respectively. Some of those increases could be attributed to homelessness caused by major storms.


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