In addition to ongoing grantmaking, Polk Bros. Foundation has played a key role in a number of collaborative, citywide efforts that bring together key public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic partners to address systemic initiatives that can have a broad impact on Chicago.
In 2002, when a collaborative effort launched with the ambitious goal of ending homelessness in Chicago within 10 years, Polk Bros. Foundation took an early place at the planning table, an effort which led to the community-driven development and implementation of Getting Housed, Staying Housed, Chicago’s groundbreaking 10-year Plan to End Homelessness. As a result, the bulk of Chicago’s resources have shifted from prioritizing the temporary fix of emergency shelters to the permanent solution of a “housing first” strategy, which places people quickly into housing and then links them to needed services, such as addiction and mental health treatment.
Polk Bros. Foundation was a private funding partner with the City of Chicago for the development of Plan 2.0, A Home For Everyone, Chicago’s next phase of planning to end homelessness. With participation from more than 500 stakeholders, including 150 people who have experienced homelessness, Plan 2.0 was released in 2012. Cutting edge thinking led to seven strategic priorities: the crisis response system, access to stable and affordable housing, youth homelessness, employment, advocacy and civic engagement, cross- systems integration, and capacity building.
While this work will continue to face challenges brought on by the complexity of issues homelessness encompasses, as well as continued fallout from the economic downturn, it is beginning to see results.
According to the 2014 Point-in-Time Count, since 2005 Chicago has seen an overall 6% decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness and a 44% decrease in the number of unsheltered people. This progress is due in large part to Chicago’s homelessness service providers, many of which are grantees of the Foundation, and their unyielding work over the last decade.