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Chicago's Homeless Population Prepares For Winter Weather

Chicago (CBS) -- Hundreds of cars pass through Lower Wacker Drive everyday. For some people, it's a place where they call home.

Raphael Mathis said he sleeps near Columbus and Lake every night.

He's been living on the streets for the past year.

"I lost the house, and my wife passed away," Mathis said. "Then I had nowhere else to go. I slept in the shelters a few times."

Mathis and his friends are now bracing for the winter months.

He said a nonprofit organization stopped by Friday morning to give them coats, hats and gloves.

"I feel good, I mean somebody out there cares," Mathis said. "These people came up, they shook our hands and even gave us hugs."

Some people said more needs to be done to help. The city told CBS 2 they are doing everything they can to end homelessness with their outreach program.

Alisa Rodriguez is the city's deputy commissioner of homeless programs.

"Although it does take some time to get them to trust us, many of them do accept services and go into shelter or they go to a drop-in or they get the medical services that they need," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said they have 52 shelters available citywide for individuals and families. Some stay for about four months or longer and others move into permanent housing.

"We want to make sure that they're connected, and we want to treat them like we treat anybody else," Rodriguez said. "Just because they choose to live on Lower Wacker or under a bridge doesn't make them less of a resident in Chicago."

A survey in Chicago found more than 5400 people are homeless in Chicago. That's a four percent drop compared to last year.

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