Expedited Housing Initiative (EHI)

The Expedited Housing Initiative (EHI) was a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic to safeguard people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. In a collaborative effort among non-profits and government entities, the EHI adapted existing programs and created new processes to make the rehousing process safer and more efficient within the constraints of social distancing.

During its operation from October 2020 to December 2022, EHI allowed All Chicago to leverage an unprecedented reduction of barriers and increase in federal funding. All Chicago and the Chicago Continuum of Care used this opportunity to test leading national practices to speed progress toward ending homelessness in Chicago. This led to a housing surge for people experiencing homelessness that produced critical system-wide improvements, including:

  • Increased the number of people housed in permanent housing by 60% over 26 months. EHI Connected 1,888 households to permanent housing.
  • Increased the number of people who are referred to housing programs that actually get housed by 5% from 73% to 78%.
  • Reduced the average time it takes for someone to move into housing by 17 days.
  • Connected people receiving temporary housing assistance to long-term housing options. Within EHI, 73% of participants exited to permanent housing. Most benefited from access to Emergency Housing Vouchers through a partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority.

Lessons Learned

In 2024, All Chicago released a report that discusses how, in collaboration with the Chicago CoC, progress was made toward achieving EHI’s goals and the need for continued iteration, investments, and accountability for the system to continue making progress on the goal of preventing and ending homelessness for all Chicagoans.

How Did the EHI Work?

The EHI used federal funding to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness to quickly obtain housing. This funding provided financial and support services to ensure success. The initiative focused on community engagement, collaboration, and accountability to streamline the housing process and enact lasting change. The following components of the EHI play crucial roles in the initiative’s success.

Coordinated Landlord Engagement

Meeting the goals of the EHI required engaging with landlords on a large, systematic scale. The CoC and the City of Chicago called on landlords and property owners across the city to participate in Chicago Rents by providing available rental units to support their fellow Chicagoans experiencing homelessness.

The Chicago Rents program has continued beyond the pandemic. Chicago Rents directly connects those in need of homes with service providers and landlords. The program facilitates rental relationships using designated funds for rental subsidies, unexpected costs, and compensation for landlords while they hold units.

Accelerated Moving Events

The EHI used Accelerated Moving Events (AMEs) to expedite and improve the process of moving from homelessness into housing. These one-day events allowed groups to complete several steps of the housing process at once. At AMEs, participants could view photos of available units, complete applications with onsite assistance, and select furniture from the Chicago Furniture Bank.

After the AME, All Chicago ensured the participating households stayed connected with their support system and helped finalize the moving process. Chicago Rents staff contacted the landlord to complete the application, approval, and move-in. Based on the proven success of AMEs, All Chicago has found alternative funding to continue the AME program after pandemic support was no longer available. AMEs are an important part of the rehousing process.

Collaboration for Sustainability

By partnering with case managers, CoC members, partners of the Emergency Solutions Grant, and other community members, the EHI connected participants with trained staff who provided ongoing support through the entire lease. These community partnerships lay the foundation for a positive tenant-landlord relationship and streamline paths into permanent housing. The case managers also provided employment and income assistance to ensure the sustainability of the housing matches.

System-Wide Accountability

As the EHI effectively changed the way we approached homelessness and housing services, the former System Performance, Data, and Research line of action developed several resources to manage these new programs and processes. This included revised expectations for housing providers, a guide to the data elements being monitored, and plans to evaluate the EHI’s efficacy.