Large-scale homeless shelter coming to Humboldt Park


G-Jun Yam

Shelters, such as You Can Make It Family Shelter in the Englewood neighborhood, have been taking steps to help the city’s large homeless population since the start of Chicago’s five-year housing plan in 2014 

By Metro Reporter

New housing for homeless youth and families is coming to Humboldt Park, according to a Sept. 9 announcement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sol Flores, executive director of the organization heading the project, La Casa Norte.

According to a Sept. 9 press release from Emanuel’s office, the new center will include 25 housing units; community, healthcare and youth drop-in centers; a cafe and food pantry as well as homeless prevention services.

The project is part of the city’s five-year housing plan, launched in 2014 to increase affordable housing opportunities. So far, the plan has created 18,646 affordable housing units  in Chicago, according to the press release.

La Casa Norte came up with the idea for the center more than 15 years ago, according to Jessica Rodriguez, development and fundraising manager for La Casa Norte. She said the goal was to focus on homeless youth in multiple ways, not just housing.

“We are housing first, but just because we’re able to get someone housing doesn’t mean that the job is done,” Rodriguez said.

Prior to the construction of the new facility, La Casa Norte operated a transitional housing program, which provides housing for a limited time, overnight emergency shelter bed services and permanent supportive housing for families and chronically homeless youth and the disabled in the Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Back of the Yards neighborhoods, Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez said La Casa Norte is already the City of Chicago’s largest provider of homeless services to youth, but the new Humboldt Park facility will double the organization’s reach from 2,000 to 4,000 individuals annually, according to the press release.

“[The development] increases the visibility of the [homelessness] issue,” said Amy Dworsky, a research fellow at University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall that specializes in homeless youth. “This is often a hidden issue that doesn’t receive the attention it merits.”

According to the press release, this project will cost $18.5 million. The city will contribute $7.5 million, using $3.5 million in tax increment financing funds and a  $4 million loan. La Casa Norte will fund the rest.

A spokesperson from the mayor’s office and Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward) did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless spokeswoman Anne Bowhay said her organization was delighted to hear of  the construction of this center.

“We’re very excited to see the expansion happening,” Bowhay said. “Their new facility will be a much needed addition to the homeless service system.”

Rodriguez said Humboldt Park was an easy choice for the location of the new facility. 

“While there are parts of Humboldt Park being gentrified, the need [for homeless services] is still there,” Rodriguez said. “When our transitional housing facility was there, a lot of the walk-ins received were from the [Humboldt Park area] looking for food, clothes [or] just somebody to talk to.”