One of the questions we get asked most is, “How do women come to Deborah’s Place?” Many people think that women can come directly to us to apply for housing, and if we have an opening, we can accept them. Several years ago, this was exactly how the system worked with each agency maintaining its own waiting list and contacting people as housing became available. As you might imagine, this was not the most efficient system, both for the individuals and for housing providers.

To streamline the process of finding housing for those in greatest need and to coordinate housing resources amongst providers, like Deborah’s Place, the City of Chicago created a centralized system to track those seeking housing and those providing it. The Coordinated Entry System (CES) gathers information from people identified as chronically homeless with a documented disability, as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and puts it into a central database, the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).  When an opening becomes available with a supportive housing provider, the agency with the opening goes to the list to find the next eligible person.

While this may seem like a complicated process, it is actually a very practical and efficient way to coordinate housing resources and keep track of those seeking housing. People who are homeless only have to go to one place to apply to be on the list rather than going from agency to agency to get on multiple lists. Agencies know that when they have an opening, the most vulnerable person who meets their criteria is at the top of the list.

The greatest challenge in housing people isn’t navigating the CES. It’s not having enough permanent supportive and affordable housing options for those in need. We can now track our progress on addressing homelessness in Chicago through a dashboard managed by All Chicago at We have a long way to go, but as technology and systems have improved, we are at least able to see our progress on making homelessness history.

If you or someone you know needs housing, please visit the CES website at or call 311.



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