Emergency winter shelter in Elgin looking for volunteers

People interested in volunteering at an emergency winter shelter for the homeless in downtown Elgin can attend a training session tonight.

The shelter in the basement of First United Methodist Church in Elgin will be run for the first time this year by the nonprofit House of Restoration Community Outreach, headed by wife-and-husband team Lucy and Pedro Gomez.

The shelter is open 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. when it's 15 degrees or below. Everyone is welcome, including those under the influence, but there will be a strict "no alcohol or drugs inside" policy, Lucy Gomez said.

The shelter previously was run by The Matthew 25:40 Ministry, whose co-founder Tammy Wheatley said it was time to step away because it was so time consuming. Wheatley has been mentoring the Gomezes through the transition.

"It's all about treating (the homeless) with dignity," Wheatley said, "and I know that House of Restoration will do that."

Lucy Gomez said her mother founded House of Restoration in 2001 to help women who were victims of abuse. Gomez and her husband have helped the homeless for a few years, including delivering meals and clothing to outdoor homeless encampments in Elgin and Chicago, Gomez said.

"We love to be the hands and feet of Jesus and work with people," she said.

Elgin has an estimated 200 or so homeless people. Its year-round homeless shelter, PADS of Elgin, is open 24 hours a day when it's 15 degrees or below, when it also relaxes its "no intoxication" policy based on behavior.

Elgin Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez said the city facilitated the process for First United Methodist Church to obtain proper permitting for the emergency shelter and connected House of Restoration to resources "aimed to enhance safety for all involved," including clients and volunteers.

The emergency shelter will have security and Elgin police plan to check in nightly, Lucy Gomez said.

There are still some kinks to be worked out, Gomez said, such as moving the link for the volunteer application to the current website. Gomez said she hopes someone skilled at working with websites will donate time to help. Also, the application asks if people are willing to submit to a background check, but Gomez said she needs to figure out how that is done.

The emergency shelter can get nearly 50 people on a busy night, she said. More than 20 volunteers have lined up so far, Gomez said, but she's hoping more people - especially men - will sign up. The shelter also is in need of frozen soup in one-pound gallon bags, coffee, juice, water, sweets, cleaning supplies and gloves, hats, coats, boots and hand warmers, Gomez said. People should call before dropping off donations at House of Restoration, 516 Slade Ave., Elgin.

The training is at 6 p.m. today at First United Methodist Church, 216 E. Highland Ave., Elgin. For more information, visit, call (224) 856-1214 or email

  Lucy Gomez of House of Restoration Community Outreach took notes last month while Tammy Wheatley showed her the supply room in the basement of First United Methodist Church in Elgin, where Gomez will help run an emergency winter shelter. Rick West/
  Tammy Wheatley, right, shows Lucy and Pedro Gomez how the emergency homeless shelter in the basement of First United Methodist Church in Elgin was laid out in previous years. Rick West/
  The winter homeless shelter at First United Methodist Church in Elgin will be run for the first time this year by House of Restoration Community Outreach, a nonprofit organization run by husband-and-wife team Pedro and Lucy Gomez. This area is sectioned off for sleeping for men and a social area. Rick West/
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