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Our Mission

The Emergency Fund provides immediate financial assistance to help Chicagoans through a crisis or transition.

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The Emergency Fund helped Ramona get back on her feet.

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The Emergency Fund

Our History 

Lisa, a single mother with mounting medical bills, was faced with a choice: buy her prescriptions to keep herself healthy or pay her electricity bill and provide heat for her children.  Either option would have led to hardships for her family and potentially, her health. Thankfully, Lisa was able to receive help from the Emergency Fund. For over 40 years, the Emergency Fund has helped families like Lisa’s when they have nowhere else to turn.  

Forty years ago, Lisa’s family would have been without heat and/or necessary medications. It was at this time that Norman H. Stone saw a gaping hole in Chicago’s safety net for its most vulnerable residents.   When community members were faced with a situation similar to Lisa’s, no one was there to help them through the transition or crisis.  In 1973, Stone changed the system and provided immediate financial assistance to people facing a crisis.  With just three volunteers, he established the Emergency Fund and began to disburse resources quickly, covering costs for medication, food, bus passes, and even refrigerators.

In July 2004, the Emergency Fund merged with My Brother’s Keeper, and in 2011, the Emergency Fund consolidated operations with the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, under the auspices of All Chicago – Making Homelessness History. The two organizations maintain separate 501(c)(3) statuses while working closely together to influence homelessness prevention, housing, and wrap-around services.

Thanks to our generous supporters, the Emergency Fund is on the forefront of financial assistance distribution in Chicago and will continue to help individuals and families in critical need.


Every day, individuals and families in our community experience a crisis that makes it impossible to afford everyday necessities such as utility bills, transportation to and from work, or rent.  A lost job, an unforeseen medical expense, or the need to miss work to care for a sick child can threaten self-sufficiency and family stability. A single financial setback can be the start of an unmanageable spiral of debt and dependency that can lead to homelessness.

The Emergency Fund offers immediate help so Chicago families and individuals can stay in their homes, keep food on their tables, and handle life’s unexpected needs. We are there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

The Emergency Fund’s assistance helps prevent homelessness by intervening during a crisis—our Flexible Financial Fund program is designed to mend a leak before it becomes a flood.  Sometimes all a person needs is a uniform before he or she can start a job that will lead to financial security. Other times, a family needs help with a month’s rent due to a temporary lapse in income. Everyone’s situation is unique, which is why our program is so flexible.

The Emergency Fund works in partnership with 30+ civic and social service agencies throughout the city. People in need of assistance can access our financial assistance by walking in to a partner agency or by calling 3-1-1 and asking for “Short-Term Help” to be connected to the Chicago Homelessness Prevention Call Center . At each agency, a Fund Manager assesses a family’s needs and determines the eligibility for a wide array of programs and services, including the Emergency Fund’s programs.

Our service delivery model is responsive and cost effective. Fund Managers have immediate access to the Emergency Fund, allowing them to respond to a family’s need within hours or days - not weeks or months. Because our Fund Managers are employed by our partners, we are able to keep our costs to a minimum.

Our collaborative service model allows us to expand our reach across Chicago, and benefit from the collective experience, expertise and network of our partner agencies. Our partners have expressed that our partnership empowers them to help individuals and families immediately, leverage other resources, and resolve crises before they escalate. These partnerships are critical to our success, and mutually beneficial to our partners


The Emergency Fund administers four programs:

Flexible Financial Fund

The Flexible Financial Fund is the primary program of the Emergency Fund. It is designed to prevent a sudden financial setback from becoming a long-term financial crisis. The two types of grants we offer through our Flexible Financial Fund are:

Crisis Solution Grants: Our Crisis Solution Grants are designed to help provide immediate help to people experiencing a crisis. Crisis Solution Grants are often used for transportation passes, food vouchers, eye glasses, prescription medicine, and clothing. Payments are made directly to landlords, utility companies, or other service providers on behalf of the client.

Self-Sufficiency Grants: Our Self-Sufficiency Grants are designed to help move families to a more sustainable income. They assist families with rent, utilities, and basic necessities while the head of household completes an employment program.


Special Funds

Special Funds are specially designated funds that provide financial assistance for basic needs for specific target groups.


State Homelessness Prevention Fund

The Emergency Fund was selected to administer the state of Illinois’ Homeless Prevention Funds for residents of Chicago. These funds provide assistance for security deposits, rent, mortgages, and utilities.


Rapid Re-Housing Program

The Emergency Fund was selected by the city of Chicago to administer this funding for Chicago. The funds provide assistance for rent, security deposits, utility bills, and moving and storage costs.



Seeking assistance? Click here for information on finding help.

Our financial assistance is delivered through our partner agencies. This allows us to have the greatest reach in an efficient manner. Our partners offer a variety of services to assist individuals and families with long-term solutions and/or a path to self-sufficiency.


Interested in becoming a partner?
The Emergency Fund takes a wide variety of factors into account when assessing potential partners. Click here to review the criteria. Organizations interested in becoming an Emergency Fund partner should review the criteria before expressing interest in forming a partnership. If you believe your organization qualifies, you may send a letter of interest and description of your services (annual reports, newsletters, brochures, etc.) to Kathleen Molnar, Vice President of Programs. Decisions about partnerships are typically made in December, with a planned January 1 start date.


The Emergency Fund offers immediate help so Chicagoans can stay in their homes, keep food on their tables, and handle life’s unexpected needs. We are there for people who have nowhere else to turn. Our donors' support made a tremendous impact in 2013:


Total Households Served,
impacting a total of 9,910
household members,
of which 4,052 were


Amount of financial
assistance distributed


Percentage of clients
who received rental
assistance that
remain housed


In 2013, Emergency Fund assisted individuals and families with the following basic needs:
8% Utilities $223,951
58% Rent $1,571,526
20% Security Deposits $539,920
1% Mortgages $15,903
0% Storage/Moving $10,595
2% Transportation $54,699
2% Car Repairs $54,699
1% Documents $21,167
1% Clothing/Uniforms $14,111
1% Food $24,706
0% Child Items/Care $8,825
6% Home Items $151,709
0% Medical Items $8,825
0% Training Costs $8,825
0% Other $10,595