If Your Loved One Goes Missing in Chicago

From emergency housing and support services, to assistance with spreading the word and advice from other families, these organizations can help. (Photo: Sebastián Hidalgo)
How to find community support, use national databases, arrange your own search and more.
By Trina Reynolds-Tyler, Invisible Institute, and Sarah Conway, City Bureau

November 14, 2023

Families never expect a loved one to go missing, and the experience can be isolating.

The search for support and resources is both stressful and critical to raise awareness and garner attention and resources. City Bureau and the Invisible Institute gathered resources to keep in mind when someone you know and love goes missing.

For All Loved Ones

National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)
NamUs is a national centralized repository and resource center for missing, unidentified and unclaimed person cases across the country. Here, local police can upload missing person cases for collaboration with police departments around the country. Families and loved ones can also upload their loved one’s missing person cases into this national database to bring awareness to their cases. NamUs helps law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners match long-term missing persons with unidentified remains, using DNA profiles, ultimately bringing closure for families.

Black & Missing Foundation
877-97-BAMFI (877-972-2634) or
The Black & Missing Foundation is an advocacy organization for people of color in the United States. This organization can help families file police reports and navigate law enforcement and media. It will add your loved one to its online database, provide a missing person flier template, a checklist on what to do if you suspect a loved one is missing, information to understand and prevent child abductions and a step-by-step guide on how to collect your child’s DNA, among other resources on their website. All services are free.


Chicago Missing Persons Guild
This local volunteer group is composed of engaged Chicagoans and retired law enforcement officials who support loved ones in their search for missing persons in Chicago. The guild also advocates for local and state reforms in how law enforcement handle missing person cases. To connect with this volunteer group for support, join its Facebook group or email


Missing Persons Awareness Network NFP
The Missing Persons Awareness Network supports loved ones through online advocacy. The organization will create a digital missing person flier about your loved one and share it to its website and social media to raise awareness on your loved one’s case online. In order to receive support from this organization, you must file a missing person report with local law enforcement first, and the missing person must be an Illinois case.

For People Responsible for Children Under 21

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
24-Hour Hotline: 800-843-5678
NCMEC helps parents and guardians in the challenging experience of a child going missing. To receive services, call the 24-hour hotline. NCMEC will provide a step-by-step process on what to do, as well as free technical and case management assistance that includes creating missing person posters to help generate leads, communicating with federal agencies and connecting you with trained volunteers who have experienced a missing child incident in their own families, and more. A NCMEC case management team will work directly with your family and the law enforcement agency investigating your child’s case to ensure that quality search and recovery methods are used in the search for your child.

Here are some NCMEC-recommended guides for loved ones with a missing child and survivors:

Polly Klaas Foundation
800-587-HELP (800-587-4357)
This national nonprofit supports families with missing children or teens, ages 17 and under. Its caseworkers will support you throughout your search for your child with counseling on ways to search for your child, creating and distributing a personalized missing person poster, sharing your child’s photo on their website and social media. They will also work with the law enforcement officials handling your child’s case. You can reach out to the Polly Klaas Foundation on its website or by phone.

Resources for Young People

National Runaway Safeline
800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

This 24/7 crisis service center supports teens who have run away or are considering doing so. Young people can connect with the National Runaway Safeline by phone, email or on a live chat. Team members can connect you to support services or even mediate and refoster communication with your parent or guardian. This group will also help you get home via a free bus ticket to your home or to a safe living arrangement. 

Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization members discuss the itinerary of the 6th annual We Walk For Her march in the Southside office.
In addition to organizations that specialize in missing person cases, local neighborhood groups, activist groups or block clubs sometimes offer assistance as well. (Photo: Sebastián Hidalgo)

The Night Ministry

This organization will provide emergency (overnight and short-term) housing for young people experiencing homelessness in Chicago. They also provide support services for teens and young adults. For youth seeking services, all calls to the number above will be returned.

The Broadway Youth Center
1023 W. Irving Park Road
This Uptown center welcomes LGBTQ youth and young people experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Young people ages 12 to 24 can find support services, a health clinic, community and more, regardless of ability to pay.

Drop-in hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday 1 to 5 p.m.

Other Resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233)

Illinois Domestic Violence Helpline

STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking
877-606-3158 (24-hour hotline)
Intensive case management to survivors, specifically sex and labor trafficking. Directs and connects survivors to medical, mental health, dental, emergency/short-term housing, employment, legal and transportation resources. Serves northern Illinois, people of any age, gender or immigration status.

Local LGBTQ Resource Helpline

National LGBTQ Crisis Hotline