Our History and Mission
The Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County coordinates the Cook County Continuum of Care (IL-511), which encompasses homeless assistance efforts throughout all of Cook County except for the city of Chicago. Established in 1997 as the Task Force on Homelessness, the group changed its name and formally incorporated in August 2004. To shift its focus from managing homelessness to ending homelessness in our county, the Alliance also hired a full-time staff and secured nonprofit 501(c)(3) status in 2005.
As the lead agency for suburban Cook County’s Continuum of Care, the Alliance brings together a range of services and housing options for homeless people. The Alliance convenes a variety of stakeholders to cooperatively set priorities, collect data, rank project applications, and measure outcomes. In coordinating the annual application to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for homeless assistance grants, the Alliance brings in approximately $9 million per year to support over fifty homeless programs in the region.
The Alliance organizes its work at the local grassroots level into three Community Based Service Areas (CBSAs) for Homeless Assistance. These CBSAs—serving the north, west, and south areas of suburban Cook County—form a collaborative homeless assistance information, referral, shelter, and service delivery system within their local communities. The CBSAs have been instrumental in the overall development and implementation of the Continuum of Care strategy.
The mission of the Alliance to End Homelessness is to strive for the elimination of homelessness in suburban Cook County through the coordination and maximization of available resources to assist homeless individuals and families. The Alliance serves as a convener for the collaborative, community-based endeavors of homeless service providers, affordable housing developers, local governments, foundations, and the private sector.
Strategic Planning and Community Engagement:
Nationwide, homeless advocacy groups have identified the potential to end homelessness by preventing it when possible and rapidly re-housing people who do become homeless. The Alliance acts as the planning body responsible for translating this national momentum into workable strategies for our county. Ending homelessness requires a community-wide effort, and the Alliance is committed to engaging stakeholders from every sector to be a part of the solution to homelessness.
Housing and Service Coordination:
The Alliance acts as an umbrella organization for the three Community Based Service Areas (CBSAs) of the north, west, and south regions of suburban Cook County. Each CBSA meets monthly to build partnerships, share vacancy information, network on best practices, and engage local community stakeholders. Each area offers a variety of homeless prevention, outreach services, emergency shelter, and transitional and permanent housing options to families and individuals. These grassroots networks come together as the Alliance to plan for the countywide strategy to end homelessness.
Project Review and Prioritization:
Over 50 current programs for transitional and permanent supportive housing are funded through the suburban Cook County Continuum of Care. The Alliance is responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of these programs, building their capacity, planning for future programs, and recommending funding priorities to U.S. HUD for homeless assistance grants. By linking our project review process directly to our strategic planning goals, the Alliance plays a critical role in serving the priority needs of homeless individuals and families in suburban Cook County.
Homeless Data Management:
As we evaluate new and existing programs’ effectiveness in ending homelessness, we rely heavily on data from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) for suburban Cook County. Implementing HMIS is a federal requirement for every Continuum of Care, but more importantly, it offers us an opportunity to document homeless needs, pinpoint how well our programs address them, and identify where we can improve. The Alliance collects annual point-in-time homeless data. Since 2005, we have also completed biennial unsheltered homeless counts. These data are critical to setting priorities for future funding and informing our strategic planning efforts.