Seek Shelter and Resources During Brutal Temperatures at Warming Centers in Chicago
By: Integra Hopkins and Briana Castro
Warming shelters are a necessity in Chicago to keep citizens in need warm during the winter.
And they were never more important than in January 2019, when the city reached a low of negative-23 degrees Fahrenheit and wind hills in the negative 50s.
City officials advise citizens to stay inside and seek shelter from the cold but not all were able or decided to do so.
From November 2019 to mid-January of 2020, there were in total 21 deaths reported in the Cook County area due to the cold exposure. In the Fall of 2018 to Spring of 2019, there were at least 30 deaths that were due to cold exposure.
During the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, 47 deaths were reported that were either due to exposure to the cold or partially cold-related. There have been over 250 cold-related deaths reported in Cook County since 2006.
A large percentage of the cold-related deaths are homeless people. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Official figures counted just 5,657 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in the city in one day in 2016, the numbers do not account for even a percentage of the total homeless population in Chicago.
There is an estimated 16,000 unsheltered and at 60,000 sheltered homeless. Homelessness affects a variety of citizens in Chicago such as adults, children, elders, and also an often forgotten portion of the homeless population, college students.
Although warming centers are mostly for people who are homeless and lack housing, they can be used by anyone looking to seek temporary shelter from severe cold weather for various reasons. According to Keep Warm Illinois, warming centers also serve a purpose to help residents reduce the use of gas and their home heating costs during the day.
There are 113 designated public buildings and bus centers that Chicagoans can seek shelter in. Six of the 113 warming centers are operated by Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services, which are open between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during weekdays when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. The Garfield Center (10 s Kedzie Ave.) is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide emergency shelter during any time or on any day.
A survey conducted with 3,000 college students revealed that about two-thirds are food insecure or have temporary housing at the City Colleges of Chicago.
Two-thirds of the students were housing insecure and homeless, but just nine percent of those who self-identified as housing insecure or homeless utilized housing assisted. In the survey, housing insecurity is defined as having trouble finding consistent housing or struggling to pay rent, and homelessness is defined as not having a stable place to live.
More than 2,300 homeless college students were identified through the FAFSA process for the 2015-2016 school year. According to All in Chicago, Chicago has the largest population of homeless students in the country behind California and Texas. Warming centers can provide homeless college students with temporary shelter from future cold snaps if they are not able to seek shelter on their college campuses, at their friends’ places, or with their families or elsewhere.
College students also have the option to Seek Shelter during the winter at Lincoln Park Community Services (LPCS). LPCS provides interim housing and permanent supportive/affordable housing to encourage those who are housing insecure to obtain housing and encourage them to make beneficial improvements to their lives.
Lincoln Park Community Shelter is located at 600 W Fullerton Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614. You can find the hours of operation and more, click here
The Interim Housing Associate, Courteney Whittenburg states the importance of seeking shelter during brutal temperatures,
“Some people hesitate to come into shelters due to the screening process. Unfortunately, most don’t want to experience sobriety while staying warm inside. Their addiction takes over and would rather take the chance. Others just need somewhere temporary to stay and think we have visitation restrictions. Everybody has their own story, right? Some we will never know. It’s hard to ask for help, I see it every day. But we welcome everyone with open arms and do what we can. We are here for you.”Courteney Whittenburg
Check out this cool timeline on the history of LPCS.
Christian De Leon, an Interim Housing Associate with LPCS, said
LPCS provides interim housing and permanent supportive/affordable housing to encourage those who are housing insecure to obtain housing and encourage them to make beneficial improvements to their lives. LPCS is not just a place where the housing insecure could seek shelter, but be able to better themselves. There is an Interim Housing Community/On Track Program at LPCS to empower those who are facing homelessness or extreme poverty.Christian De Leon
The Interim Housing Community/On Track Program at LPCS empowers those who are facing homelessness or extreme poverty. According to LPCS The interim housing community provides housing to 35 people year-round (24 men and women), which includes three meals a day, access to laundry and showers, and no limit on the length of stay if the individual is making progress.
To be a part of the Interim Housing Community, the individual must be enrolled in the on-track program, which helps guests create goals to develop a viable future.
De Leon said to qualify to join LPCS as a resident, applicants must be an adult (18 years-old and up) and must show proof of homeless must be provided, and individuals must undergo a background check for screening purposes.
When participants first join the program, LPCS associates have practice harm reduction (alcohol or drug reduction) to ensure they can progress through the plan the participants will build with their case managers.
De Leon said the next step is to have them get some form of governmental assistance to help them become independent of the program. Lastly, participants who are ready, can secure their own housing outside of the program.
Lincoln Park Community Services just opened up their second location last summer, 1521 N Sedgwick St. This location has five floors that provides more housing opportunities to the public. The building has dedicated floors for women, men, and families. I am really glad to see the expansion of this organization and the people who truly benefit from the programs.Christian De Leon
If you need shelter, please go to a hospital emergency room or police station and call 311.