‘Higher than any year we’ve seen before’: Report shows surge in Lake County homeless

More children experiencing homelessness now

Lake County officials reported a substantial increase in homelessness, particularly among families.

Results released of the Point in Time Count taken on a single night in January, showed 701 people experiencing homelessness either outside or in shelters. That compares with 467 last year — a 50% increase.

Of those counted this year, 53% were people in families, according to Brenda O’Connell, who recently ended her tenure as the county’s community development administrator to coordinate the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s statewide homeless response.

Point In Time is a snapshot taken annually in counties across the country. It’s the most complete piece of data about homelessness, O’Connell said.

“This (total) is substantially higher than any year we’ve seen before,” she said. “There were many more children than we’ve seen in a long time experiencing homelessness.”

O’Connell and others say homelessness is a complex issue without a single cause.

“We know that we will have less homelessness when rents are affordable, child care is accessible, gainful employment opportunities are increased and supportive services are available when needed,” she noted.

The county reports Point In Time data to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That agency’s figures for its fiscal year ending last Sept. 30, is one of three reports on homelessness using local data.

“All three data sources are telling us the same thing — homelessness has increased substantially especially in families,” O’Connell said.

Lake County staffer leaving for state post as adviser on homelessness

The most recent HUD report showed 1,087 became homeless in Lake County during the last fiscal year compared with 982 the previous year. Eighty-five percent were experiencing homelessness for the first time and 78% of households were homeless due to some form of abuse or trauma.

Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart said more funding is being allocated to increase physical and mental health services, create more job opportunities and expand affordable housing options.

Also, PADS Lake County is moving forward with two unspecified sites for fixed-site shelter, one for families and one for adults, the county reported.

Officials say there are many stories of individuals or families who become homeless for the first time through no fault of their own.

One story the county shared was by Karina, who with her two children moved to the area and was staying with a family member. The family member moved out of state leaving Karina’s family with nowhere to go, according to the county.

One of her kids told a teacher about the situation and with assistance from the school district the family was placed in emergency shelter. Six months later they were matched with Catholic Charities and permanent shelter was arranged.

“While homeless is up we continue to house many people through our system,” O’Connell said. “Except we are overwhelmed by the inflow.”

The Lake County Coalition for the Homeless is seeking volunteers. Visit to learn how to get involved.

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