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Housing: Homelessness Services

Homelessness affects my ability to get financial aid and pay for college or training. Can I get help?

In order to qualify for many forms of financial aid, all students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and must submit financial information and the signature of a parent or guardian. However, there are special provisions for unaccompanied youths and unaccompanied youths at risk of homelessness. You can be considered an “independent student” on your FAFSA if you are an unaccompanied youth and may apply without submitting a parent’s financial information or signature. You may even qualify for a greater amount of financial aid.

In order to be considered an independent student, you need to receive written verification (a signed letter) that you were homeless and living without a parent or guardian during the school year in which you submitted your FAFSA. This includes if you were living temporarily with others or left an abusive parent who otherwise provide financial assistance.

You can get this letter from one of the following:

  • A school district or liaison for the homeless;
  • The director or designee of an emergency shelter or traditional (HUD-funded) housing program;
  • The director or designee of a runaway or homeless youth basic center; or
  • A college financial aid administrator.

For more information about filling out a FAFSA or for a sample verification letter for unaccompanied youths, contact The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless at 1-800-940-1119 or online.

Where do I go to find immediate assistance related to my homelessness?

If you are currently homeless, going to be homeless, or experiencing housing instability, there are resources available to help you. Many nonprofit organizations, faith-based institutions, and city agencies offer a diverse range of services to help you. Here are some useful services:

  • The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) Community Service Centers can help you and your family access a wide range of resources from shelter, food, and clothing to domestic violence assistance, job training/placement, and prisoner reentry. The facilities also serve as Warming and Cooling Centers where you can go during periods of extreme weather. To locate the Centers, visit The City of Chicago website, or call 3-1-1.
  • Chicago Catholic Charities has a number of homelessness programs including temporary housing, homelessness prevention, rapid rehousing assistance, emergency food and basic needs assistance, housing counseling, and case management. You can find more information about these services online.
  • If you have a family, there are many women’s and children’s shelters that can help you with your immediate needs such as temporary housing, obtaining food and toiletries, and escaping from domestic violence situations. Some shelters also provide long-term resources, such as case management, counseling, substance abuse treatment, or help in education or job placement. You can find a list of women’s shelters, or men’s shelters, online.

This list of resources is not exhaustive. You can get referrals to shelters and other resources at any local IDHS office, or call 3-1-1 for immediate assistance.

More Information and Resources

You can get help from the Chicago Health & Human Services Homeless Outreach program. To get help, call 3-1-1 or visit a Community Service Center for walk in help. You can find a list of locations online.

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