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A permanent shelter for_Kendall Co. homeless? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
A permanent shelter for_Kendall Co. homeless?
County board listens as PADS officials voice differing opinions

by Matt Schury


Does Kendall County need a permanent homeless shelter?

That question was at the heart of a discussion last week during the Kendall County Board's committee of the whole meeting.

Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), and Pastor Kent Svendsen of United Methodist Church of Plano and Millbrook United Methodist Church, addressed the board about this issue.

Both Engelhardt and Svendsen say there is a great need in Kendall County to help the homeless but Svendsen says he'd like to see a permanent place for them.

"The thing that tears my guts out is to look at somebody and say, 'You know what, if it was the fall we could help you, but it's summer so I guess you're going to have to sleep in your car,'" Svendsen said.

PADS is a non-profit organization completely funded through donations and volunteer efforts. It operates from October through April out of seven church sites in Kendall County at a different church site each day of the week. Volunteers are scheduled on four-hour shifts between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. PADS also provides a dinner, light breakfast and a bag lunch to guests.

Engelhardt told the board that PADS knows first hand the growing number of homeless in Kendall County but doesn't believe a permanent homeless shelter would be the best way to serve them.

"Long-term what do homeless people need-they don't need a homeless shelter," Engelhardt said. "If we look at a homeless person, we don't want them to be in a shelter, we want them to be able to address their underlying problems and issues."

She added that ideally it would be great to offer PADS year round. However, they currently need almost 600 volunteers to stay open during the winter and it is sometimes a challenge to find volunteers. Remaining open in the winter would require another "mirror image" of 600 volunteers.

She said the leaders and volunteers, "pour their heart and soul" into PADS and need the summer off as a break. It might be more feasible for PADS to add a month on at a time, if the county continues to grow, she said.

Since PADS has opened they have helped 241 guests, had over 4,000 overnight stays and served over 12,000 meals, according to Engelhardt.

"We have displaced, broken and dysfunctional families or parts of families, people with addictions, we have veterans," she said.

Board Chairman John Shaw said that Svendsen contacted the county to speak during the citizens comment portion of the meeting. However, Shaw wanted a more formal discussion about the issue so they added him to the agenda.

Svendsen explained that his church is also a PADS site so he is dealing with the homeless and he is president of the ministerial association.

"I don't know what we would do without this PADS program," he said.

But he said that during the summer months homeless still come to his office looking for help.

"I spend about 20 percent of my time dealing with the homeless and I would have come more prepared tonight but I spent two hours with a woman who's going to be homeless in the near future," he told the board.

He added that the woman is living with relatives and she can't find a job and expects to soon lose her house. He told the board he used to work in Rockford and was familiar with the Rockford Rescue Mission.

"It has everything that Anne talks about only in a large setting in one place," he said. "The PADS program is absolutely wonderful and it does everything that Anne says it does but it doesn't cover the year round and it doesn't provide anywhere near the services to help the homeless escape being homeless."

Engelhardt said that one of the key advantages of PADS is that it is small in size, which allows volunteers to interact with guests. PADS guests also have space and are not "packed in together", which allows for safety as well as cleanliness, she added. PADS provide homemade meals and sheets laundered each day at the Kendall County Sheriff's office correction's division. The guests and volunteers are respectful and the churches provide a calm quite place for them, Engelhardt said.

"We operate 100 percent on volunteers and being a 501 c3, we are also 100 percent financed by donations, we are not getting anybody's tax money," she said.

Cesich, who volunteers at PADS, asked if Svendsen wanted to see PADS become a year round program or if there needed to be a permanent shelter established.

"If we don't have a plan in place to develop something more than what we have, we will continue to do what we do and get the same results, which are good for what we are doing but it is still missing a lot of people that need our help," he said.

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