DFSS Response to COVID-19

May 4, 2020

The City of Chicago is committed to providing leadership and help throughout the evolving COVID-19 crisis. As the situation develops, the City will continue to offer resources and support to people across the city. Chicago.gov/Coronavirus provides the latest information on a range of topics regarding COVID-19. 



 Direct all media inquiries on COVID-19 to media.coronavirus@cityofchicago.org 

Community Service Centers

Community Service Centers are open during the Stay at Home Order for individuals and families in need of access to rental, utility and other financial assistance programs. Centers hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Rental Assistance Program

In response to COVID-19, temporary changes are in place for obtaining required application forms for the Rental Assistance Program coordinated by the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS). Application forms can be downloaded directly from the Rental Assistance Program website. Residents can also request to have the application forms mailed to them by calling any of the six Community Service Centers during regular business hours. Required documentation and completed application forms must be submitted in person or by mail to one of the six Community Service Centers.

Senior Services

Many older adults in Chicago are deciding to put their health first and the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS) is partnering with them to ensure their safety and wellbeing needs are being met. Older Chicagoans should limit travelavoid large gatheringsstay home as much as possible and, if needed, ask others for helpEveryone has a role to play in getting ready and staying healthy. We all should call older loved ones, neighbors and friends to check up on them.

For Senior Services,

  • Email Aging@CityofChicago.org
  • Call 312-744-4016, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday
  • Cal 311

For Home-Delivered Meals

This program provides nutritious meals to older persons (60 years and older) who are frail and/or home bound because of illness or incapacitating disability or are otherwise isolated.

  • Email SeniorMeals@CityofChicago.org 
  • Call 312-744-4016, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday 
  • Call 311 


Wellbeing Checks

Volunteers are conducting ongoing wellbeing checks, over the phone, to engage with older Chicagoans and to make sure their needs are being met during the Stay at Home Order.

Homeless Services

From the very onset of this crisis, the City of Chicago has made the health and safety of residents experiencing homelessness a top priority. The City and its vast array of partners continue to ensure an equitable, compassionate response to COVID-19 for residents experiencing homelessness.


To ensure that the needs of residents living in encampments across the city are being met, the City’s Homeless Outreach Program (HOP) visits encampments throughout the week to assess the need for resources at the location, to identify residents that are at higher risk for COVID-19 due to older age and severe chronic health conditions, and to gauge a resident’s interest in shelter placement. The HOP team has deployed mobile restrooms and handwashing stations to the city’s larger encampments and has made sure hygiene kits, hand sanitizer and wipes are available. This outreach has been in partnership with multiple city-funded agencies that provide wraparound services for unsheltered residents year-round.  

CTA Outreach Initiative 

DFSS, Featherfist, Haymarket, Salvation Army and Thresholds canvass CTA’s Forest Park and O’Hare Blue Line Stations, and the Howard and 95th Street Red Line Stations on Tuesdays and Thursdays to provide linkage to shelter services, behavioral health and substance abuse resources to residents experiencing homelessness that frequent CTA routes. The teams also handout face masks and educational material on COVID-19 and guidance on social distancing, hand washing, covering coughs and more. In addition, the Night Ministry's Street Medicine Team participates in the outreach from 4-7 a.m. on Thursday and Fridays.  

High Risk Residents Experiencing Homelessness 

The City and Lawndale Christian Health Center are providing housing for people at high risk to protect them from getting COVID-19. To date, more than 100 people over the age of 60 and/or who have underlying medical conditions have been moved out of congregate settings into individual rooms with supportive services so they have a safe place to stay.

Homeless Shelters 

The City set up emergency homeless shelter space at select YMCA and Salvation Army facilities. To date, there are five emergency shelter facilities active and serving families, youth, women, men and returning citizens. The spaces expanded shelter bed capacity in the City by nearly 700 and helped homeless shelter operators abide by social distancing practices within their facilities. The Chicago Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS) oversees client placements at homeless shelters in the City. Shelter bed availability is steady with new requests for shelter being connected with homeless shelter operators or placed in an emergency shelter facility. Residents can request shelter through City Services by calling 311 or visiting 311.Chicago.gov.  

In addition, DFSS and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) conduct weekly webinars with homeless shelter operators to train and provide resources to ensure they are practicing necessary precautions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.  

Testing and Health Support  

To meet the immediate needs of shelter staff and residents on the front lines, CDPH has arranged for nurse visits at homeless shelters across the city to provide in-person education and screenings. Additionally, CDPH pairs community-based providers with local shelters for ongoing clinical support. CDPH and medical student volunteers from Rush University Medical Center have distributed more than 25,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) donated by Project HOPE to shelter residents and staff, as well as DFSS outreach teams. 

When there is at least one known COVID-positive staff or client at a homeless shelter, CDPH, in partnership with UI Health and Rush Medical Center, conduct widespread testing of the shelter’s staff and clients. To date, 1153 shelter clients and staff have been tested at 14 homeless shelters this far with 302 known test results being positive for COVID-19. Prevalence when CDPH first started testing in homeless shelters was higher than what we are now seeing. CDPH is getting ahead of the curve and responding quickly to known positive cases in shelters, providing isolation space and thus interrupting the spread of the virus within the shelter settings. CDPH is developing a proactive surveillance strategy to test clients in congregate settings regularly to detect the virus more rapidly and to ensure it isn’t spreading under the radar. 


To ensure safe recovery spaces for residents experiencing homelessness that test positive for COVID-19, the City has set up two isolation facilities through partnerships with A Safe Haven, Rush University Medical Center and Heartland AllianceWhen shelter clients are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, they are transferred to one of the Chicago’s isolation facilities or in a CDPH-monitored designated isolation area within the shelter.  


Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline

The IL Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 via call or text: 

Phone: 1.877.863.6338
TTY: 1.877.863.6339


The Chicago Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS) is the lead agency for the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline and works exclusively with The Network, a local nonprofit, to ensure residents have access to domestic violence support resources 24/7/365 – especially during this time of crisis. The Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 via call or text in over 240 languages for residents affected by domestic violence. Through collaboration between the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago, the availability of resources provided by the Hotline has been expanded to meet the increasing demand during COVID-19. In addition to direct victim response, the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline supports a network of service providers that address counseling and legal needs for Illinois residents affected by domestic violence. 

Children Services

Governor Pritzker announced a temporary suspension of public schools statewide. For Chicago Early Learning, the suspension applied to programs that operate in a Chicago Public Schools setting. Programs that operate outside of a school-setting, made individual organizational decisions based on the needs of their staff and the families they serve. DFSS has been told from its federal and state funders for early learning programs that funding will remain available for all early learning and childcare delegate agencies while their operations are temporarily interrupted. 

Youth Services

The 2020 One Summer Chicago application is open at OneSummerChicago.org.