Cook County assistance programs.
Find how to get help with everything from back rent to energy bills, free prescription medications, and much more. There are social service agencies and charities across the city of Chicago and Cook County that all strive to provide emergency financial assistance to the low income, elderly, and disabled among others. Find resources and information on applying below.
Find resources and programs to help with bills and expenses
Find information on various charities, non-profits, and also The Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc. This is one of the largest community action agencies and private non-profit organizations in the country. Over 200,000 residents are assisted each and every year. They offer Chicago and Cook County residents over thirty different assistance programs. Some of them include employment and job training, help for utility and heating bills, housing assistance, child and family development, health and nutrition services, food aid, senior citizen programs, economic development, housing services, community development, and education services.
All of these services immediately below are offered by the Community Action Agency of Cook County, also known as the The Community and Economic Development Association. At the bottom of this page find other programs and resources.
- Housing Assistance - There are several different resources and options offered by the community action agency that people have available to them including Comprehensive Housing Counseling. Financial aid is in the form of Minor Home Repairs and Painting, Rental and Mortgage Assistance, Home Maintenance Seminars, Foreclosure Counseling, and there is a Housing and Community Outreach Project. Lastly the agency offers an Affordable Housing Project, Veterans Housing, Emergency Shelter, and Transitional Housing.
- Assistance Resolving or Preventing Foreclosure, Mortgage Delinquency and Default Counseling - They offer one-on-one and group counseling in the following housing areas. Programs focus on assisting clients that need foreclosure assistance, they provide help to people that are affected by predatory lending, offer foreclosure prevention and education, and they work with homeowners to pursue loss mitigation strategies.
- They also offer programs to help restructure debt, seek loan forbearance, establishing reinstatement plans, managing household finances, and loan modification. They can refer residents to Illinois foreclosure prevention programs.
- In addition to the options and resources listed above, Cook County has also recently created a mediation program. It is for anyone struggling with their mortgage. Learn more on homeowner mediation in Cook County.
- Locating, Securing, or Maintaining Residence in Rental Housing, Including Rent Help - This service helps clients utilize and obtain rent subsidies in market rate housing, transitional and public housing, helps people with budgeting for rent payments, education on client’s and landlord’s rental rights and explaining the eviction laws and process and rights that people have.
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - The federal funded LIHEAP program, which is administered by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc. was designed to aid eligible low and moderate income households with paying for winter heating bills. Assistance is provided in the form of one-time grants and payments to utility and gas companies that are applied directly to the household’s energy bills. While the amount of the grant will vary, the amount of the payment will be determined by household size, income, geographic location, and fuel type.
- Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) - The Community and Economic Development Association Weatherization program is offered year-round, and it helps people reduce their heating and utility bills. Employees of the community action agency will audit your home using state-of-the-art technology, and determine what improvements your home needs. They will then install, for free, energy saving improvements to your home. The goal is to make homes more energy-efficient for qualifying low and middle income clients who live in Chicago and suburban Cook County. Some of the home improvements of weatherization include repairs or replacement of heating systems, installing safety and health equipment, the sealing of air bypasses and other drafty areas in the home, additional wall, attic, basement, and crawl space insulation. These measures will save energy and money for homeowners and help them keep their homes warmer during the winter and cooler during the summer.
- ComEd Residential Special Hardship Fund - In particular with the weak economy, ComEd understands that some of its customers are experiencing hardships with paying their energy bills. The ComEd Residential Special Hardship Program runs from January 1 until the programs funds are depleted. The program will provide a one-time cash grant of up to $1,000 for residential ComEd customers with household incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty level provided they can document a hardship case.
- Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Program: This was created to help unemployed workers, adults, as well as young workers learn new skills and find employment.
- Adult Program: Adults receive a variety of assistance and job training, primarily in the medical and health care field. Programs offered to people include training in medical billing, pharmacy technician, EKG technician, phlebotomist and also a certified nurse’s assistant (CNA). Placement services, on-the-job training, pre-employment skills training, dislocated worker services and grants, and linkages to other job finding services are also available.
- Credit Counseling - They also recognize it is important for people to deal with outstanding debt, including credit card and medical debt, in order to become self sufficient over the long term. So various debt settlement, budgeting, financial management and counseling plans can be discussed. Read more debt settlement type programs.
While the main office of Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc. is located at 208 S. Lasalle, Suite 1900, Chicago, IL they have several other locations throughout Cook County, including in Berwy, Robbins, Summit, and more. Call them at (312) 795-8844 to learn about resources and services they may have for your situation.
Foreclosure prevention - Lake County Housing Case Management can help people both looking to buy their home, and also stop a foreclosure in Chicago. The agency offers first time home buyers' education and access to funding. They also provide foreclosure prevention counseling as well as mortgage default assistance. Last, but not least, the agency can provide individuals with budget and debt counseling for clients experiencing financial difficulties and hardships. (847) 782-4000.
Chicago and Cook County - The city of Chicago and Cook County have non-profit agencies and neighborhood service organizations that administer programs that provide mortgage as well as foreclosure help. Any struggling borrower can drop in.
Another HUD agency to turn to for mortgage and foreclosure help is Neighborhood Housing Services. This non-profit agency offers access to several foreclosure programs. Learn more Neighborhood foreclosure assistance programs.
Another non-profit agency is Catholic Charities of Chicago. Phone number is (847) 782-4000. The organizations has locations throughout Cook County, and they offer many assistance programs. They run a food pantry, provide housing assistance, general counseling, and much more.
Cook County Salvation Army (773-725-1100) administers several different assistance programs. As the agency has funding, they may help people pay heating and utility bills, rent, provide holiday assistance, and free food. Most of the services are offered in emergency situations to low income families. Get locations of Salvation Army in Cook County and Chicago.
Some mortgage companies, such as Fannie Mae, have also opened counseling/help centers in Chicago. Only those borrowers can use them. Click here information on Fannie Mae in Chicago.
ACORN Housing Corporation - Chicago, which can be reached at 312-939-1611, offers foreclosure prevention services to Cook County homeowners. They can even provide information on such programs as the Illinois hardest hit loan program.
Programs such as the Home Ownership Preservation Initiative (HOPI) provide borrowers in the area with services. Learn more about free foreclosure assistance in Chicago.
Short term housing and shelters are located across the city and Cook County. While the centers can provide residents a place to stay for a short period of time, more importantly social workers will help people who were evicted or who are homeless find and pay for permanent housing in Chicago or the suburbs. Individuals can also use the various case management services that are available, which can include employment assistance, job training, and credit repair type programs. Many of the locations also have information on security deposit and homeless prevention programs. More details on transitional housing and homeless shelters in Cook County.
MAC House Wilmette - Phone number (847) 271-8669. This organization provides sliding scale rent assistance as well as funds for utilities for families and individuals in crisis or hardship situations.
Credit counseling and mortgage help in Chicago and Cook County
Some of the non-profit agencies that may provide Chicago and Cook County consumers with debt reduction and foreclosure prevention programs include:
Get one on one counseling from a credit or mortgage counselor from Consumer Credit Counseling of Greater Chicago. Call them at (888) 527-3328. They offer face to face, phone, and internet services. Get access to debt and credit counseling, budgeting, financial management, foreclosure prevention, and bankruptcy advice.
Great Lakes Debtors Anonymous is another debt and credit counseling agency based in Buffalo Grove Illinois. Phone 312-409-2222.
Find the phone numbers, addresses, and details on the services offered by additional credit counseling agencies across Chicago and Cook County.
Financial assistance - Two agencies to turn to for aid include the Society of St. Vincent De Paul (312-655-7181) as well as Lake County Emergency Assistance Program ((847) 782-4100). These two non-profit charity agencies offer access to a wide range of assistance programs. Applicants may be able to receive funds to pay energy and heating bills, rent assistance, and access to food and other household items.
St. Vincent partners with many churches across Cook County and Chicago. While any funds they have for rent or heating/utility bills is limited, their main focus is on providing other services. For example, receive free food, Christmas meals and gifts, social services, access to thrift stores and food pantries. Read more Chicago St. Vincent assistance.
Chicago Housing Authority runs the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, or section 8. They also have information on other social services for the less fortunate and low income. The main office can be reached at 312.742.8500. Note that for vouchers to pay a portion of your rent (section 8), there is usually a waiting list.
CHA, or the Chicago Housing Authority, can provide referrals or guidance for some of the following. Self-sufficiency services, including employment from FamilyWorks. Information on utility assistance, with a focus on LIHEAP heating bill grants. Loans for first time homebuyers or repairs to a residence. Get details on low income housing in Cook County, including resources for paying a security deposit or first month’s rent. Also get information on Affordable Child Care in Chicago, Senior Services, Medical Care Information, domestic violence programs and much more.
Emergency Fund - For almost 40 years the fund has provided a safety net and social services for Chicago's neediest residents. Our financial assistance program provides help to persons in need of free food, shelter, heating and utility bill payments, prescription medication and other items. Many social service agencies distribute funds to low-income individuals and families in Chicago and Cook County. Call (312) 379-0301 or click here to learn about the emergency fund in Chicago and to get more information.
Social Services - If you are faced with a crisis, the Department of Family Services in Chicago offers a number of financial assistance, job finding, and other programs for the low income and people who are struggling. Get help finding a job, money for bill or rent, and more. Learn more Chicago area public assistance programs.
Water bill payment plans - Customers who are faced with a shut off can enter into a payment plan or even find grants and cash assistance for paying water bills. Read more help with water bills in Chicago.
Chicago Chesed Fund assists families from the county and city. The non-profit will not discriminate based on their religion. They administer emergency financial aid, basic needs such as food and clothing, as well as self-sufficiency. Dozens of programs are run.
- Zero percent interest loans may be offered for certain expenses such as a security deposit, rent, or critical car repair.
- The Fund works with partners such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Together they provide basic needs, including winter coats, free boxes of food, work or school clothing, baby formula, and other support.
- Cash assistance may be offered for housing needs, such as rent, a mortgage payment or utility bill.
- Several other programs, including referrals to Cook County resources, are offered by the Chesed Fund of Chicago.
Assistance from Catholic Charities - This is one of the leading non-profit organizations in Cook County. They can distribute direct financial assistance for basic needs such as rent, homeless prevention, and food. However they can really help by referring people to other government programs and resources in the region.
While applicants will need to meet qualifications, including they need to have a limited income, Catholic Charities will help people of all religions, backgrounds, and cultures. Other services offered include food items, free meals, information on government and public assistance such as WIC and food stamps, energy assistance, and more. They also operate an intake and referral center. More on Chicago Catholic Charity programs.
Caring Closet – You need to have a referral from a social service organization. The center may be able to help the low income and homeless (between 35th & 103rd) obtain furniture, household items and clothing. 1745 East 71st Street, Chicago, (773) 947-9043
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago is a leading social service agency. They offer some human services for the entire county, regardless of religion or faith. Other aid may be only for those of the Jewish faith in the Chicago area.
They advocate for the less fortunate, provide referrals, organize care for seniors, meals, and job training. Some financial support may be available, usually in the form of loans, for paying rent or other critical bills. The main center is at 30 S. Wells Street in Chicago. Call 312-346-6700.
Churches and Family Services of Illinois operates across the county, state, and city of Chicago. It is one of the state’s leading non-profits. Some programs available include free clothes and basic needs from a thrift store, help for veterans in Cook County, food, referrals and information on government benefits, and housing assistance. More on Church and Family Services of Illinois programs.
CEDA is the regional community action agency. The organization may offer some short term financial assistance and government benefits, but clients will usually need to participate in case management and self-sufficiency sessions.
For those clients that qualify, the CEDA association may offer funds for heating bills, mortgage counseling, rent help, free food, and more. The Cook County Illinois programs also include Summer Food Service Program, WIC, low income energy assistance, job training and many others. Learn more on Community and Economic Development assistance programs.
DFSS programs are wide ranging. This is one of the leading organizations in the Chicago area and tens of thousands of residents receive help from them every year. Assistance is available for low income families, the elderly, veterans, and unemployed, among others. Anyone who is struggling can contact them.
Dozens of programs are offered by DFSS. Among them include referrals, financial help for paying bills or housing, shelter, child care and more. During the cold winter months funds may be offered for paying heating and gas bills. Food and meals are served as well. There are also a few dozens offices across the county and city. Continue reading about the Department of Family Services for the low income in Chicago.
Almost 100 churches provide support in Cook County and all the neighborhoods in Chicago. The services provided will vary by parish, but any people of all religions and faiths can apply. the assistance includes the following.
- Low cost or free furniture, clothes, and household items from thrift stores.
- A church may offer help with energy bills, gasoline or housing costs, medications, and rent.
- Free food, hot meals, and groceries.
- Shelters, including cold weather sites to keep the homeless warm.
- Many other resources are available, and more on Chicago church assistance programs.
Cathedral Shelter may have emergency rental assistance, free food, help for seniors and more. Basic needs such as furniture and household items may be distributed too. A focus is on homeless prevention, so shelters and permanent housing such as Cressey House can help the very low income, single parents, and those facing eviction. 1668 West Ogden, Chicago, phone (312) 997-2222, or find resources from Cathedral Center.
Inner Voice focuses on housing issues. They operate shelters, transitional housing, and case managers can help with placement into a new, low income apartment in Chicago or Cook County. They also participate in resources such as the Chronic Homeless Initiative (which may offer rent or deposit help), offer assistance to veterans and run the Representative Payee program for seniors. Click here Chicago Inner Voice.
Legal support for housing, public benefits, and other civil needs is provided by pro-bono firms and some non-profits in the city and Cook County. Income qualified clients can receive help with applying for benefits such as SSI or SNAP food stamps. There is free advice for stopping evictions in Chicago, support for immigrants, and assistance for dealing with debt collectors, among other services. Learn more on Legal aid in Chicago.
Heartland Alliance offers health care, housing, general assistance, and other human services. 208 South LaSalle Street, Suite 1818, Chicago, telephone (312) 660-1300
Seasonal school supply events are held across the city and County. Students from low income households may be given everything they need including a haircut, free school supplies, bags, books, clothes, and more. Back to School Illinois coordinates many of them across the city of Chicago. Find more information on Chicago free school supplies.
Volunteers of America operates in Chicago and across Cook County. The non-profit organization administers many programs, with a focus on housing for low income families and help for veterans and children.
- They operate shelters, transitional housing, and affordable, low income housing units and apartments.
- The non-profit may have referrals to programs to help pay rental or utility deposits, moving expenses, or some back or first month rent costs.
- Children can receive free school supplies (from Operation Backpack), holiday toys and food.
- Resources for veterans in Cook County include job placement and more.
- Various other programs are available. More on Illinois Volunteers of America.
New mothers and pregnant women can receive financial assistance and other support from Firman’s Family Case Management Program. The organization works with a number of non-profits in Chicago Illinois. It can provide baby supplies, such as diapers and formula. Healthcare can be obtained, as well as applications for government programs like WIC. Other programs include financial aid, Head Start, and much more for children. Continue with Firman’s Family Case Management Program.
Free basic needs, clothes, school supplies, furniture and holiday assistance - Some centers in Cook County may not have financial assistance, but they provide other forms of help. Free clothing closets may distribute free clothing, Christmas gifts or toys, winter coats, and work clothes. There are also free furniture banks for household items. They will also offer case management, including career counseling programs and referrals to government resources. More on free clothes, furniture and school supplies in Chicago.
ChildServ works closely with government agencies in Cook County and Chicago. They offer child welfare services, applications for programs such as food stamps, and other services. Get information on resources such as WIC and Head Start programs in Illinois. (773) 693-0300
Respond Now administers programs across almost 30 neighborhoods in southern Chicago. They coordinate transitional housing and emergency money for back rent as part of the network created by the Homeless Prevention Call Center. Also in high demand are vouchers for prescription medications, free school supplies, and rides for work or job interviews in Chicago. More on assistance from Respond Now.
Senior Services Area Agency on Aging provides assistance to seniors in the Chicago area. Call 312-744-4016. AgeOptions, Inc., which can be reached at 1-800-699-9043, offers help to the elderly in the suburbs and greater Cook County region. Both of the organizations are non-profits and offer a number of assistance programs. They range from government health insurance (Medicare) and prescription plans, home delivered and congregate meals, part time employment opportunities from SCSEP, and much more. They can also provide information and referrals too. Read about assistance from Illinois Agency on Aging.
CRN Helplink only offers referrals, information, and similar support. The line will help connect individuals and those in need with social service agencies and non-profits. Or learn about government assistance such as low income energy bill programs, or LIHEAP. 1-800-725-5314
Emergency rental and security deposit help in Cook County and Chicago is available from both government affiliated and non-profit agencies. Any funds will be combined with case management and information on safe, low income apartments or transitional housing. Some grants may even be offered for first months rent or paying a portion of moving costs. Read more on Chicago rental programs.
Urban League of Chicago, or CUL, assists tenants, homeowners, the unemployed, and people looking for new skills. The HUD approved agency can help homeowners behind on their mortgage or tenants facing eviction. Numerous employment programs are offered as well in Cook County, such as Financial Empowerment Center and career counseling. Continue with assistance programs from CUL.
Center of Concern is a leading non-profit that is involved in offering numerous services. They assist seniors, the unemployed, and disabled among others. Some of their programs are as follows.
- Housing, including share accommodations or homeless prevention.
- Assistance for seniors in Cook County, such as Telephone Reassurance, home check ins, or help in applying for Medicare.
- Other services include transitional housing, money for rent and heating bills, and more. Continue with the Center of Concern programs.
Free holiday and Christmas programs are available for low income and struggling families, with a focus on assisting children in both Cook County and Chicago. Most of the programs are run by non-profits, such as Catholic Charities and Santa VP. They also rely heavily on donations from the community. More details on free Christmas help in Chicago and Cook County.
Winter heating bills, furnace repairs, and related services - The cold Illinois winters cause many families pay to struggle with paying their heating and energy bills. Others may need a new furnace. The city, county, and many utility companies can provide help, cash grants, and other resources. More on Chicago heating bill assistance programs.
All Chicago is a non-profit made up of dozens of human and social service agencies. Using a combination of crisis as well as self-sufficiency grants, there may be emergency funds for basic needs and employment related expenses.
They also operate a call center that can link people to SNAP food stamps, solutions to repair a furnace or services such as free prescription drugs or eyeglasses. Other expenses can be paid too, and they offer self-sufficiency through the Learning Center. Read more All Chicago financial assistance.
Eviction help - The two main resources are the Central Referral System (for Chicago residents) and the Homeless Prevention Call Center (for suburban families). Resources range from motel vouchers to rehousing into a permanent home. There may be financial help for rent arrears, moving costs, legal aid, and other expenses as well. Read eviction assistance in Chicago and Cook.
Summer cooling assistance - There are a few programs available that can help low income families and senior citizens deal with the summer heat in Chicago. The state may distribute emergency financial and utility bill assistance for paying air conditioning bills. Other resources include free fans and so called cooling centers that are open across the city and the county as well. More on cooling help and fans in the city of Chicago.
Referrals from the Jewish service of J-HELP are for struggling families, regardless of their religion. The charity has a database of thousands of social services providers in Cook County and Chicago. While in some cases they offer emergency grants for bills, medical needs or rent, a key focus is on employment. They can coordinate legal aid, mental health counseling, delivery or meals and more. The number is 312-357-4949, or more on J-HELP services.
Housing assistance from Connections for the Homeless - They provide emergency money for rent or utility bill from homeless prevention as well as other solutions. Disabled residents of Cook County may be eligible for Permanent Supportive Housing, and Hilda Place is a transitional housing service for single parents, men, and women. The low income can also get clothing, personal hygiene, and other items from EntryPoint, so many programs are run. Click more Connections for the Homeless.
Cook County Illinois assistance programs and agencies that also cover the state
Many agencies and assistance programs cover the entire state of Illinois, including Cook County and Chicago.
In addition to those state programs above, there are national organizations too, including free charitable grants. Anyone from the city of City of Chicago can explore the website for more resources. Or find free grants for financial hardship.
Job training and employment opportunities
Lake County Family Self-sufficiency Program - Low to moderate income families and also single parents can get help finding a job in Chicago from this agency. Participants in this self-sufficiency program will receive job training, education, employment assistance, resume assistance, case management, computer access and counseling for up to five years as they learn to achieve and maintain an independent, self sufficient lifestyle. And having a secure, stable job is a priority so people can provide for their families. (847) 223-1170
Career Resource Center (phone (847) 295-5626) is a regional, nonprofit career transition center that provides job seeking services and professional assistance to adults and others who are seeking employment. They have a team of professionals and counselors who empower job seekers and the unemployed by offering education, training, resume review, career counseling and mentoring.
Some places and clinics to turn to in Cook County and Chicago include the following:
Access Community Health Network: This facility has a variety of health programs and resources that are affordable. ACCESS services are comprehensive and will meet the needs of low income and other struggling families. 866-882-2237
The Children’s Clinic: This organization is a place that patients in need of medical help can find top quality medical and health care. You and your child can expect to be treated with a high level of professionalism and mutual respect from health care providers. Receive dental care for your child as well. Dial (708) 848-0528
A number of other not for profit hospitals and government qualified health and dental centers operate in Chicago and Cook County. Find details on other Chicago community clinics.
Pro Bono legal services
If you can’t afford an attorney, the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation may be able to help. They provide pro bono legal representation of individuals and other clients from the ranks of the city of Chicago area's poor, unemployed and working poor. Volunteer lawyers resolve non-fee-generating family, housing and foreclosure, consumer debts, probate, tort, immigration, government benefits and miscellaneous legal cases. Dial (312) 332-1624 to learn more about legal programs, or click here state of Illinois legal aid.
Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, which can be reached at (312) 341-1070,also offers free legal advice and representation. Thousands of low to moderate income, elderly, unemployed, and others are helped by LAF each and every year. The non-profit law firm will help those cannot afford legal counsel navigate the court system.
Food pantries and food banks
Project HOPE serves the Cook County and Barrington region of Illinois. They provide emergency food vouchers, groceries, and access to a food pantry for low income residents. Phone 847-381-5721. Additional food banks and centers in the Cook County and Chicago region include
St. Kevin Food Pantry, which can be reached at (773) 721-2563.
Inner-City Missions Network offers food boxes, hot meals, and other social services. Call (708) 417-6226.
Several Saint Vincent De Paul food pantries provide free groceries, canned goods, clothing, financial help, and more. Telephone (773) 436-2558
Uncle Shack Food Blessing serves a more limited region in Chicago. Phone number is (773) 863-0995.
Will Feed Community Organization ((773) 651-9220) may serve hot meals, offer free Christmas assistance, have winter coats, lunches for children, and provide other low income programs.
Dozens of other non-profits and food banks operate in the city and county. Get a list of free food pantries and assistance in Cook County and Chicago, and find how to apply.
Child programs in Cook County Illinois
The Community and Economic Development. Association of Cook County (phone (845) 292-5821) also runs the Head Start and Early Head Start program. This is a child and family development program, that can both help Chicago Illinois and surrounding area families provide food, nutrition, and also health and dental care to their children. Specifically get nutrition, access to day care, child development, mental health, and a number of social services.
City of Chicago
If you live in the city of Chicago, find additional services and resources that are for the Chicago area. Click here to learn about these options.