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'Homegrown' Family Homelessness on Rise in Elmhurst and Corona: Study

By Katie Honan | February 29, 2016 5:28pm | Updated on February 29, 2016 9:32pm
 The study was prompted by the community outcry over the Pan Am shelter.
The study was prompted by the community outcry over the Pan Am shelter.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ELMHURST — Family homelessness in Corona and Elmhurst is increasing as the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, according to a new study by a research organization that analyzes poverty.

The Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness studied data between 2005 and 2013, looking at rent burden and income changes for the neighborhoods' residents.

Jennifer Erb-Downward, the principal policy analyst at the organization, said they focused their research on the neighborhood following the controversy over the opening of the Pan Am shelter. 

"We started looking more at what was going on in the community," she said. "There was really a lot of homegrown homelessness. The community was experiencing a lot of destabilization as a result of gentrification."

Between 2005 and 2013, the number of households earning at least $100,000 more than doubled — from 8 percent to 17 percent — while the population in almost every other income bracket fell.

In the southwest portion of Elmhurst and Corona, 15 percent were living in poverty, data shows.

In the northeast portion, that number was 23 percent.

Using the educational definition of homeless, which includes families forced to live with family or friends because of finances, the number of homeless children in the city is more than 80,000, she said.

The situation was prevalent in Elmhurst and Corona, where an analysis found the need for low-cost apartments was four times higher than what was available, which forced many families to double and triple up with others in apartments. 

"For every student in a shelter there's roughly two other children living in some other setting" like being doubled up with another family, she said. 

They are the "next wave of families who will be in the shelter system," Erb-Downward said.

Meanwhile, there was an influx of wealthier residents as well.

The income bracket of households earning at least $100,000 had higher availability of apartments — with 15,000 units between $1,000 and $1,499 a month available for only 5,000 renters.

New construction of "luxury" or even market-rate units doesn't help close the gap, the study found.

"What you end up having is a case where it's a very affordable neighborhood for a lot of people, but very unaffordable for people in the lowest income bracket," she said.