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Help to Keep Going as Long as They Need Me: A Report on Seniors Raising Children

April 1, 2006

This report presents the data from CIR's 2005 survey of 182 Senior Caregivers of DCFS wards, examining the challenges confronting these grandparents and other senior adults as they are increasingly called upon to raise their kin. The findings of this report will assist policy makers and community-based organizations to provide better services, better advocate for their needs of these populations and create better policies and legislating.

The Costs and Benefits of School Health Centers: A Fact Sheet Prepared for the Illinois Coalition for School Health

February 1, 2006

This fact sheet describes the costs and estimates the benefits to the state of Illinois that accrue from thirty-eight School Health Centers that receive partial funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services. The study focuses on benefits from reduced asthma hospitalizations, reduced emergency room visits, and increased immunizations provided for Illinois school-age children.

Money Management by Low-Income Households: Earning, Spending, Saving, and Accessing Financial Services

August 1, 2005

Opening and maintaining a checking or savings account at a credit union or bank are crucial steps for establishing the kinds of relationships with financial institutions that lead to qualifying for credit and developing assets. An estimated 22.2 million households or 56 million adults in the U.S. did not have a bank account in 2002. The lack of a bank account is more pervasive among low -income families than higher income families: 83% of families without bank accounts earn less than $25,000 per year. Furthermore, as many as 22% of low-income families -- more than 8.4 million families earning less than $25,000 -- do not have a checking or savings account. Families in the lowest income group are even less likely to have accounts. An estimated 29.1% of families with incomes in the lowest twentieth percentile ($10,300 or less) are without accounts, which is more than three times the median of 9.1% for all families. Classifying households as either banked or unbanked is conventional in the literature on the use of financial services by low-income households. However, a continuum that encompasses banked, formerly banked, underbanked, marginally banked, aspiring to bank, and unbanked better characterizes the way low-income persons access the broad array of financial services available to them. For example, approximately one -half of those currently without a bank account had one in the past; people may have a bank account and still use alternative financial institutions such as check cashing outlets (CCOs), known as currency exchanges in the Chicago area; and 30% of persons without an account report some kind of ongoing relationship with a bank. In fact, the terms mainstream and fringe or alternative themselves depend on one's perspective. That is, what may be regarded as fringe or alternative in one community might be ordinary and mainstream in another. A bank account can be a vehicle for maintaining and accumulating savings. However, having an account does not ensure that account holders are able to save. For example, although an estimated 78% of families with an annual income less than $25,000 had bank accounts in 2001, 53.4% of this income group reported having saved in the previous year. For households in the lowest income quintile ($10,300 or less), the savings rate is 30.0%. Furthermore, the reasons for saving differ among income levels, with families at lower income levels saving for more immediate expenditures such as rent and holiday gifts, compared with the longer timeframe of savings by higher income groups for future expenditures such as children's education and retirement.

Wherever I Can Lay My Head: Homeless Youth on Homelessness

March 1, 2005

Research about the issue of homelessness largely has focused on understanding the characteristics and addressing the needs of homeless adults and families in our communities. Much less research has been conducted to document the characteristics and needs of homeless youth. In recent years, a number of studies have come out in Illinois that address the situation of homeless adults and families as well as youth. Yet there remains a lack of data documenting the perspective of homeless youth concerning their own needs. Providing services that youth report they need can serve as a gateway to other needed services. In the summer of 2003, the Chicago Department of Health sponsored a symposium on the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth. Discussions during this meeting made it clear that assessing the needs of homeless youth would require looking beyond those who were living in shelters, and that the needs of subgroups within the homeless youth population were likely to vary considerably. In response to this need for more information about homeless youths' needs, the City's Department of Children and Youth Services (CYS) partnered with the Night Ministry, an agency with a history of addressing the needs of marginalized youth, to commission the Center for Impact Research (CIR) to conduct a study of the needs of homeless youth in the City of Chicago. The purpose of this study was to learn what the youth themselves identify as their needs, and to understand the differences in these needs among a variety of subgroups-those experiencing their first episode of homelessness, those cycling in and out of homelessness, and those experiencing chronic homelessness. Both the non -profit service providers and the City hope that identifying and meeting these needs not only will act as a gateway to other needed services, but also will expedite resolution of problems that result in homelessness and lead to the establishment of permanent, stable, and safe living situations. With guidance from the Homeless Youth Task Group of the Chicago Continuum of Care 3 and an advisory group composed of government policy makers and program personnel and non-profit agency directors,4 CIR conducted a survey of homeless youth in Chicago between the ages of 14 and 21 during April and May 2004. Twelve youth, nine of whom were homeless, were recruited and trained to interview homeless youth for the project. They conducted 400 interviews with homeless youth throughout Chicago -- at bus stops, fairs and festivals, on trains, streets, and basketball courts, in parks, shelters, schools, homes, drop -in centers, churches, and restaurants. In addition to conducting the survey, CIR interviewed homeless youth service providers, advocates, and public policy personnel working at public and private agencies. These interviews provide further information about the needs of homeless youth and the resources currently available to them, as well as ways that the various systems serving homeless youth might be improved.

Medicare Reform: Widespread Confusion, Uncertain Benefits

February 1, 2005

This report presents the data from CIR's 2004 survey of 600 Medicare recipients about their health care options, ability to access services, and choices about health care spending in the wake of Medicare reform. The findings of this report will assist policy makers and community-based organizations to advocate for programs that will best serve the needs of Medicare recipients.

Self-Sufficiency and Safety: The Case for Onsite Domestic Violence Services at Employment Services Agencies

December 1, 2004

This report presents the findings of a two-year demonstration project that provided domestic violence services to participants in programs at employment services agencies, highlighting the challenges, service needs, and outcomes of low-income domestic violence survivors as they struggle to keep themselves and their children safe, become and remain employed, and attain self-sufficiency.

Addressing Domestic Violence as a Barrier to Work: Building Collaborations between Domestic Violence Service Providers and Employment Services Agencies

October 1, 2004

The Kraft Domestic Violence Services Project began in October 2000 and continued through the end of 2002 at sites in Houston, Chicago, and Seattle. This national demonstration project investigated how domestic violence acts as a barrier to women's training and employment and the interventions that are effective for assisting women remain safe and employed. The Center for Impact Research (CIR) undertook the project's research component and provided technical assistance to the participating employment services agencies and domestic violence service providers. From its inception, this project was designed not only to provide direct services and build the capacity of participating agencies, but also to include a research component for documenting and sharing program and participant outcomes. Thus, the purposes of the project were twofold: * To develop a collaborative model of providing domestic violence services within a job-training environment to expand access to domestic violence services for low-income victims. * To develop a model for strengthening programs that assist low-income women attain economic self sufficiency by addressing needs of domestic violence survivors. This report summarizes the project learnings and best practice recommendations for integrating domestic violence services into employment services agencies. It discusses establishing and maintaining interagency collaborations, training of case managers, conducting screening and referrals, and ongoing delivery of domestic violence services within the employment services setting.

Sentencing Reform for Nonviolent Offenses: Benefits and Estimated Savings for Illinois

October 1, 2004

Commissioned by the Developing Justice Coalition, this report examines alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses. The report discusses the potential cost savings and the social benefits of sentencing nonviolent drug offenders to mandated substance abuse treatment and intensive community supervision instead of prison.

Community Organizing in Three South Side Chicago Communities: Leadership, Activities, and Prospects

September 1, 2004

This study identifies barriers facing groups and leaders in communities on the South Side of Chicago that limit not only their capacity for organizing but also their ability to attract resources for their work. The findings also provide key data on current activities at the grassroots level, with particular attention to groups and leaders that have the potential to expand the scope of their efforts to larger, community-based initiatives.

Current Strategies for Reducing Recidivism

August 1, 2004

This study reports on programs for inmates and released inmates that are contributing to reductions in recidivism. Programs showing the greatest success address the issues of substance abuse, low educational attainment, and the need for vocational training, job readiness, and placement services.

Applying Online: Technological Innovation for Income Support Programs in Four States

January 1, 2004

A study examining the development, implementation, and best practices for online applications for public benefits programs in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Washington based on interviews with state agencies and community-based organizations.

Pathways to and from Homelessness: Women and Children in Chicago Shelters

January 1, 2004

For the past several years, the number of women and children seeking shelter from the City of Chicago's Department of Human Services (CDHS) during the warm weather months has far exceeded the supply of shelter beds. Officials at CDHS wanted to know whether this increase was related to external factors, such as the demolition of public housing units, or to public policies, such as women reaching the 60-month time limit for receipt of TANF (cash assistance). The City of Chicago is determined to end homelessness by 2013 with a "housing first" policy, significantly reducing the number of shelter beds and creating interim housing and increasing permanent housing linked with the necessary social services. By providing more stable housing along with linkages to mainstream resources, the City believes that it can better prevent recurring homelessness. Current information about the causes of family homelessness, as well as the needs of homeless women and children, is critical to the City as it implements its new programs. To better understand the situations of the women and children currently homeless, CDHS, in collaboration with the Ounce of Prevention Fund, commissioned the Center for Impact Research (CIR) to undertake a study focused on this population. CIR conducted structured interviews with 45 homeless women living in shelters in Chicago. The study provides critical information and insight that can inform CDHS policy and practice vis-a-vis homeless families in Chicago within the limitations of the scope of the study.