Chicago Transit Authority Partners with City to Serve Unsheltered Riders

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
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Federal Transit Administration

As part of its continued efforts to provide a welcoming environment for all customers, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) this week entered into an agreement with the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) for additional outreach and support services to be provided to riders who are unsheltered, as well as those grappling with mental health and substance abuse.

The CTA Board approved an intergovernmental agreement which allows CTA and DFSS to expand overall outreach from contracted social service agencies to assist individuals on public transit who are unsheltered and/or in need of assistance with either mental health or substance abuse issues, a challenge faced by transit agencies across the country. DFSS currently contracts with social service agencies who are experienced in working with individuals in need of social services or utilizing CTA properties for shelter.

“While CTA traditionally has not played a role in the provision of social services, I believe it is time to address these challenges with new thinking and new tools,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “By expanding our partnership with DFSS to provide additional services through community-based organizations and social service organizations, we can confront these challenges in an innovative way—and do so with respect, compassion and care.”

Today’s agreement is the latest measure introduced by the CTA as part of the Meeting the Moment: Transforming CTA’s Post-Pandemic Future Action Plan, unveiled in August.  The multifaceted plan focuses on several aspects of improving CTA service, including improving the customer experience.

Through the agreement, CTA will provide up to $2 million in funding to DFSS through December 31, 2023. These funds will be used by DFSS to provide an expanded network of community-based social service organizations to provide outreach, direct assistance and resources, such as housing, medical care, and social services, to support unsheltered residents who are utilizing trains, stations and other CTA spaces as a shelter of last resort. The agreement was built on CTA’s existing engagement and outreach efforts to assist riders in need.

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