Kendall Co. PADS program to start third year : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Kendall Co. PADS program to start third year |
|Volunteers again needed to assist homeless at area churches |
|by Matt Schury|
Kendall County PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), the program that provides shelter for area homeless individuals, is returning for its third year next month.
In 2010, PADS began providing basic overnight shelter to area homeless from mid-October through April. Seven churches in Kendall County each provide shelter one night per week.
Since they opened two years ago, the program has served over 100 guests, Anne Engelhardt, the program's director, said. Last year, the program recorded 1,107 overnight stays, compared to 703 stays the year before.
While the number of stays were up, the number of guests was down compared to the first year. The guests have been staying longer, Engelhardt noted.
"Some stayed almost the entire six months," she said.
Engelhardt said she believes that the number of clients they serve would increase dramatically if the homeless had access to transportation. However, many homeless people lack the transportation to get to the church sites each night.
Engelhardt said PADS needs one thing as it gears up for another year-volunteers.
Last year, the program had 500 volunteers and Engelhardt estimated that 75 percent of those will return, leaving the program to find 100 to 150 new people.
"We are grateful for them, that's just huge that we have so many people coming back," she said. "This is a big organization doing a huge service for this county."
A training program for new PADS volunteers is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Yorkville Congregational Church, 409 Center Parkway in Yorkville. The program is slated to return Sunday, Oct. 14 and will run 26 weeks through Saturday, April 15.
Potential volunteers have options when it comes to helping out PADS.
The biggest need is for volunteers who can stay at the church sites overnight.
"They sacrifice a little sleep so that someone can have a warm bed and some nutritious meals," she said. "It will warm your heart."
While the organization is very grateful for monetary donations, they need people who can donate their time and talent.
"We're so grateful for those donations but, right at the moment, we'd have to say we prefer people over money," she said. "The program won't work-we really won't be able to manage unless we cover all those time slots each night."
Those want to sign up, can email the PADS volunteer coordinator at email@example.com or call 630-553-5073. Volunteers can also register online at kendallcares.org.
Seven Kendall County churches have again offered space for the program with each site providing overnight arrangements one day of the week from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
There are three shifts - 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., 10:45 p.m. to 3 a.m. and 2:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
Third shift volunteers often have to wake up in the middle of the night in order to be at a site at 2:45 a.m. Engelhardt said she has seen people who have gotten up for the shift and gone right to work after it is over.
That shift is the toughest to fill but Engelhardt reminds volunteers that they are only volunteering for six times a season and can trade with another volunteer if they can't make it on their scheduled night.
Churches providing PADS locations include: Cross Lutheran Church near Yorkville on Sunday, Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ (YCC) on Monday, Plano United Methodist Church in Plano on Tuesday, Harvest Baptist Church in Oswego on Wednesday, Trinity Church United Methodist in Yorkville on Thursday, Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist in Oswego on Friday and St. Luke's Lutheran in Boulder Hill on Saturday.
Homeless on the margin
Is there still a need for PADS and are there a significant number of homeless in Kendall County?
"If you went by the calls that I received over the summer, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we see a lot of people," she said. "I get the calls, I know they're there because they called all summer."
Engelhardt estimates that she has had 30 calls asking about the program and she tried her best to find places for people to go over the summer. Sometimes the calls are from people seeking shelter themselves, other times it's relatives, friends or health care professionals calling on behalf of the person.
According to the Kendall Grundy Regional Office of Education, 220 children were registered as homeless in Kendall County schools during the 2011-12 school year. Of those 220, Engelhardt said PADS only took in five children.
One reason for the low number of children at the program is that friends and relatives often open up their homes to families with young children.
Engelhardt said that families with children tend to "double bunk" rather than go to the shelters. That is they sleep on a couch of a relative or family member or neighbor.
Most homeless in Kendall County tend to be people who are unemployed or underemployed and who lost their home as a result, she explained. However, there is a small segment of the people who attend PADS who are chronically homeless- people who have some issue beyond their control that keeps them from getting their lives in order.
"It's hard to observe that but that's why we exist, because there are going to be people who struggle for years, if not their whole life," she said. "We'd like to think that we are giving them a place so that they don't just freeze to death."
Engelhardt maintained that PADS works hard to "be the link" for those homeless. Most of the time PADS volunteers can help recommend a guest for other services they might need.
For instance, once a week a mental health counselor from the Kendall County Health Department is available to talk to guests who need help.
"They spend time with a counselor one on one," Engelhardt said.
Most homeless blend into society but operate on the margins of society, she said.
"It is pretty easy for us to not notice them because they don't want to be noticed," she said. "You could walk past them in a library or a grocery store and you would never think that they would be homeless."