Some groups in the region are more likely to experience homelessness than others are.
Between 2015 and 2019, most people experiencing homelessness have been Black (although Black people represent less than 17 percent of the region’s total population). In 2019, 68 percent of people experiencing homelessness were Black, 29 percent were White, 1 percent were Asian, and 2 percent identified as multiple races. Additionally, 12 percent of those experiencing homelessness identified as Latino.
While the number of Black people experiencing homelessness in the region declined between 2015 and 2019, the share of the homeless population that is Black increased. This racial disparity is not unique to northeastern Illinois: While Black people represent 13 percent of the general U.S. population, they account for 40 percent of people experiencing homelessness and more than half of families with children facing these circumstances.
Northeastern Illinois must remove barriers to residents’ economic prospects, health, and overall quality of life. Black adult men in the region are most likely to face homelessness, as well as other disparities in economic outcomes. During 2005-16, labor force participation rates among the region’s Black residents were at least 5 percentage points below any other racial group.
Adults age 25 and older make up about two-thirds of the homeless population, followed by children younger than 18 (24 percent) and young adults 18-24 (9 percent). In 2019, Lake County had the highest percentage of youth experiencing homelessness (26 percent), while Kane County had the smallest percentage (10 percent).
Both individuals and families can be homeless. Following the 2008 economic recession, the region saw a surge of families facing homelessness. But family homelessness began to ebb by 2011, and since then the regional rate has remained in the range of 35 to 39 percent. Between 2007 and 2016, at least half of the homeless population in DuPage County were families, the highest percentage share in the region.
As of 2019, McHenry County had the highest percentage of families experiencing homelessness (42 percent), followed by DuPage County (39 percent) and Lake County (38 percent). Kane County has had the lowest share of families experiencing homelessness. Today, the COVID-19 crisis threatens to put more families with low incomes at risk of homelessness, as they struggle to juggle work and remote learning or face new financial challenges.