While the number of people spending the night in emergency shelters in DuPage County has stayed relatively flat during the last four years, the population of children using them has seen a renewed upswing since 2012.
According to numbers from the DuPage County Continuum of Care, a group of 58 social service providers whose aim is to address area homelessness, 333 children used some form of emergency shelter between June 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, an increase from 250 the previous year.
More than 127 were under the age of 5.
"No one deserves to be homeless in DuPage County," said continuum outreach committee Chairwoman Carol Simler. "And DuPage County does not deserve homelessness."
Overall, 1,424 people used an emergency shelter during the same time period, up slightly from 1,384 in 2012, but close to recent numbers.
"Most people's perception is that poverty and homelessness is an urban problem and perhaps a rural problem," said Simler, who is also the executive director of DuPage PADS. "But we know that the number of poor people in DuPage County is growing."
The upswing in children utilizing services such as PADS was reported a month after advocacy organization Voices for Illinois Children announced the number of children living in poverty countywide increased more than 66 percent from 2006 to 2011.
Simler, who presented the statistics during the April 22 County Board meeting, said the continuum and the board had several key problems to address, including transportation access, health care, affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage.
Though the numbers seem small compared to the more than 900,000 people in DuPage County, Simler said homelessness runs a great monetary cost to the community through hospital bills, law enforcement costs and more.
Mary Keating, the county's director of community services and chairman of the continuum's leadership committee, said the organization hopes to release a new five-year plan later this year. Similar reports were released in 2003 and 2008, according to the continuum website.
That plan would go into greater detail than ever before thanks to the county's Homeless Management Information System, which uses numbers and demographics from the 58 providers in the continuum, Keating said. By delving deeper into who need what kind of help, the continuum could help policy makers and philanthropic organizations focus their efforts.
"The intervention for a young family may be totally different from an intervention for a Vietnam-era veteran," Keating said. "There is no single intervention that's going to solve it for all of those people. But there are multiple interventions that are appropriate for different profiles."
DuPage County emergency shelter use numbers
• 2013 – 1,424
• 2012 – 1,384
• 2011 – 1,460
• 2010 – 1,486
Number of children who utilized an emergency shelter in DuPage County (under 18 / under 5)
• 2013 – 333 / 127
• 2012 – 225 / 104
• 2011 – 280 / 97
• 2010 – 359 / 136