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Kendall homeless face tough time finding permanent housing

The homeless may face more financial challenges in securing permanent affordable housing in Kendall County than in any other metropolitan area in Illinois, according to a recent statewide study.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Illinois is $977, said Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, which conducted the study.

“In order to afford this level of rent and utilities––without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing––a household must earn at least $39,067 annually,” Palmer asserted. “Assuming a 40-hour workweek, 52 hours per year, this level of income translates into a housing wage of $18.78.”

In Kendall County, however, that projected housing wage rises to $22.52 per hour, the highest of 15 metropolitan areas in the state, the study, entitled “Out of Reach,” found.

A Kendall worker making the state minimum wage of $8.25 per hour would have to work 93 hours in a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the county.

Kendall County Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) is sensitive to the often out-of-reach housing costs in the community, said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of the nonprofit agency. That’s why Kendall County PADS is committed to another season of providing temporary, safe shelter and nourishing food to the men, women, and children within the county who are homeless or just in need, Engelhardt said.

Since 2010, Kendall County PADS has assisted more than 300 men, women, and children, she stated. That translates into 5,794 overnight stays and 17,369 meals served to the agency’s “guests.”

From Oct. 18, 2015, through April 16, 2016, Kendall County PADS will provide homeless shelters from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. And once again, seven churches have graciously offered to host PADS guests at the following sites.

 

 

Former PADS guest gives help and hope to the homeless

Darrell McGhee used to stay at a local homeless shelter. Now he volunteers at one.

Darrell, 35, was a guest last winter and early spring of Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois. Today, he has an apartment and a job as a forklift truck operator, thanks to the help of the nonprofit organization.

“It feels like a lot of weight has been lifted off my shoulders this time,” he said, comparing a recent, cold December night to the one last year when he first sought food and shelter at the PADS site at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville.

“Every volunteer group needs someone who has been in the same situation as the people they are helping,” he asserted, after passing out clean white towels to three male and three female guests of the PADS site at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Boulder Hill, unincorporated Kendall County. “Anybody can volunteer but it’s nice to have a few people who have been here.”

Ron Freeman, the PADS site coordinator at St. Luke’s, said “it feels pretty good” to see Darrell coming back to the church to serve. Ron, who is in his sixth year as a volunteer, recalled that Darrell availed himself of the programs that PADS offers, particularly employment assistance. “I could see then that he was going to give back.”

Darrell was one of the more fortunate PADS guests because he owned a car. So every night that he was homeless, he was able to drive himself to the PADS sites operated throughout the week by local churches: Sundays at Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville; Mondays, Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville; Tuesdays, Harvest New Beginnings, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego; Wednesdays, United Methodist Church of Plano, 219 North Hale Street, Plano; Thursdays, Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville; Fridays, Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego;  and Saturdays, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Boulder Hill.

Lack of transportation is the biggest obstacle to finding a job and even finding a way to a PADS shelter site, according to Sidney Williams, who has been a guest of St. Luke’s, off and on, for three years. Sidney, 67, lamented the discontinuation of a Pace bus route that serviced nearby Oswego.

“It’s hard to get here without a vehicle,” said Sidney. “Instead of getting better, it’s getting worse.”

He was able to get to St. Luke’s on this night by first taking a Metra train to the Aurora station, where Ron picked him up and then drove him to the church. Sidney said he usually stays at PADS sites in DuPage County, which operates shelters year-round.

In Kendall County, PADS sites are open only from mid-October until mid-April, due to limited funding and volunteers. Information about donating or becoming a volunteer at a local shelter may be obtained online at www.kendallcountypads.org.

Ron, the site coordinator, said St. Luke’s has hosted as many as 18 PADS guests on Saturday nights, mostly during the Great Recession. He sees the lower number of guests as a sign that the economy is improving.

“People were losing their jobs and then they were losing their homes,” he said. “Hopefully, we were able to get them in the right direction. But even today, many people are only two paychecks away from being homeless.”

Dinner on this Saturday night at St. Luke’s was salad, meatloaf, corn, scalloped potatoes, rye bread, soda, coffee, and candy cane cake.

“The food is excellent,” said guest Wilbur Hines. “And you get a chance to stay clean. This is like being in a presidential suite.”

Each PADS “suite” featured a light-green plastic mattress, clean sheets, two blankets, a toothbrush, toothpaste, towel, bar of soap, and access to a shower––which St. Luke’s is able to provide because its shelter site is the school gymnasium.

Wilbur, 61, also had high praise for the hospitality of the volunteers. “This is not an act. This is who they are.”

He does not expect to be homeless for long because he has a car and a job as a meat cutter at a packing plant in Aurora. Wilbur even has higher hopes of saving enough money to place a down payment on a house. In addition to his meat-cutting job, he says he has applied for more work at a movie theater complex and a fast-food restaurant.

He had been living in Chicago with his sister but had a falling out with his employer, also a meatpacking firm. Wilbur prefers living and working in the western suburbs as opposed to the gang-ravaged neighborhood where he had been residing.

“You don’t want to stay in Chicago,” he cautioned. “It’s a helluva place. Anything can happen there.”

Darrell grew up three blocks away from St. Luke’s and now attends nearby River’s Edge Fellowship church. He was looking forward to taking Sidney to a potluck meal at his church the next day. And he was hopeful that all of the night’s guests would eventually become PADS volunteers like he has.

“They all have to find their own way.”

By Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
PADS of Kendall County

Former PADS guest wants to give back

darrellDarrell McGhee knows what it’s like to be homeless, and now he wants to help those who are in the same situation that he once was.

Darrell, 35, will never forget how he felt on that cold December night last year when he walked into a homeless shelter site at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville.

“That’s when everything hit home,” he said. “That’s when I found out everything was realistic.”

Darrell had been living with his girlfriend in Aurora, hanging out in bars, and not trying too hard to find work. He says he had “burned bridges” with his family, so when his girlfriend broke up with him, he had no place to live.

That’s when his grandmother told him about Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County. A quick call to the local police station led to a referral to the nearest PADS shelter site. So Darrell spent that first night, a Sunday, at Cross Lutheran.

Unlike most PADS guests, Darrell was fortunate enough to own a car. Therefore, he could drive himself to the six other area churches that host PADS shelter sites in Kendall County throughout the week from mid-October to mid-April.

As the PADS season was ending last spring, Darrell realized that he needed to get serious about finding a job, lest he wind up homeless again. So that’s he when he contacted Manpower, which landed him a job with a local farm equipment company.

Shortly thereafter, Darrell was able to save enough money to rent a room from an Aurora homeowner for $500 per month. He was recently laid off from his job but Manpower found him a new one, as a forklift operator. “They’ve been really kind,” he said of the employment agency.

In addition to becoming gainfully employed, Darrell has made other changes in his life. He attends The Edge Church in Aurora as well as meetings of Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program. “I’m hanging out with better groups of people.”

He realizes, however, that not everyone becomes homeless on account of making “bad decisions” like he did. “Some people are just a paycheck away from losing their homes.”

Darrell is looking forward to the upcoming PADS season, but for a different reason than the one he had last fall. He plans to be a volunteer, helping others who are in the same predicament that he was in.

He says PADS “needs people like me who have been homeless, who know what it’s like to have no place to go.” Since he works during the week, Darrell will most likely be volunteering on Saturday nights at the PADS shelter at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Montgomery.

Besides Cross Lutheran and St. Luke’s, the other participating PADS churches this year will again be Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ; Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego; United Methodist Church of Plano; Trinity United Methodist Church, Yorkville; and Church of the Good Shepherd, Oswego.

Since 2010, Kendall County PADS has assisted more than 300 men, women, and children. That translates into 5,794 overnight stays and 17,369 meals.

Story by Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
PADS of Kendall County

Photo by Lisa Sharpe

 

Affordable Housing?

In Illinois, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $977. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this translates into a hourly wage of $18.78. The trouble is that in Illinois, minimum wage workers earn $8.25 per hour. Read more…

With statistics like these, it’s no surprise that many men, women and children in Kendall County are struggling to keep their homes and apartments. With winter right around the corner, the need to serve our county’s homeless has never been greater.

If you’re facing homelessness, we want to help. If you’re considering volunteering, please contact us. We need more than 500 volunteers each PADS “season”, to effectively serve the county’s homeless from October through April.

Right now, we’re training volunteers, equipping facilities, and praying that God touches the hearts of volunteers across the county and beyond.

We’ve redesigned our website to serve both guests and volunteers better. We welcome your feedback and look forward to working with you to better serve our guests this season.