Coordinated Entry System Employment Survey

Coordinated Entry System (CES) Employment Survey

There are many circumstances that lead people to experience homelessness. Some people face long-standing or complex issues that need extensive support, and are at high risk of suffering severe hardship, dangerous health outcomes or even death as a result of homelessness. Others are homeless due to short-term disruptions and face far fewer barriers to stabilizing their housing.

For the latter group, some find themselves without stable housing because they lose a job, or cannot find work that pays enough for them to afford housing. However, little has been known about the employment prospects for people engaged with homeless services in Chicago. To address that knowledge gap, Inspiration Corporation conducted this study, with a grant from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, to obtain detailed information related to employment for a sample of people experiencing homelessness in the city.

Without the resources to do a survey of the entire list of people in the homeless information system, Inspiration Corporation consulted with other service providers and advocates to determine what subgroup should be selected for this study. As a result of those discussions, the study was limited to adults at least 25 years old who had been determined to have low levels of need. These would be people least likely to receive housing services and most likely to be able to gain income from working. The goal of the project was to interview 100 people and provide the first detailed look at this population’s demographics, past work experience, education levels, skill sets, and potential barriers to employment.


Inspiration Corporation is grateful for the support of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation that provided a grant to conduct this research.

Inspiration Corporation worked with All Chicago and the Continuum of Care to identify people for the survey. In coordination with the Chicago Jobs Council who has been contacting people interested in services, this research project contacted a subset of those individuals who met the survey criteria above, and had phone numbers. Interviews were conducted between March and July, 2018.

The surveys, data analysis and report writing were completed by Taylor Divine and Anna Sobon. Taylor Divine served at Inspiration Corporation as a VISTA Summer Associate. During the rest of the year she is a preschool teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. Anna Sobon worked on the project for a summer internship. She is a graduate student completing her Master of Social Work degree at Loyola University Chicago and aims to continue working to improve the lives of those experiencing homelessness throughout her career in social services.


The opinions, conclusions and recommendations included in this report are those of Inspiration Corporation and do not imply the endorsement of any of the parties that assisted in implementing this project.

Full data sets are available on request. Please contact Evan Cauble-Johnson, Chief Development Officer, at or (773) 878-0981 x204.

Key Findings

The most notable reported barriers to employment by this population were: lack of transportation, lack of stable housing, mental health concerns, and criminal backgrounds.


of respondents had a work history of five years or more, and 74% of respondents had worked within the previous 12 months.


of respondents had a high school diploma or higher with 50% reporting at least some college experience.


of the respondents met HUD’s definition of homelessness (at the time of survey), but due to their low levels of need, are unlikely to receive housing assistance.


reported that they were not currently conducting an active job search. The most common reason given was that they were doing temporary or gig work to make money, and that interfered with looking for better opportunities.

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