Elgin daytime homeless shelter Wayside reopens in NE side

Elgin's daytime homeless shelter, Wayside Cross Ministries, reopened Monday in a building about a mile from downtown that shelter officials said allows them to better serve the city's homeless population.

The building at 453 Fremont St. is a former day care owned by adjacent Bethesda Church of God in Christ. The church reached out to Wayside after learning it was looking for a new location, Wayside Director Phil Wood said.

The arrangement is great because the core values of Wayside, a Bible-based ministry, include collaborating with churches, but the agency hasn't determined whether the location is temporary or permanent, Wood said. Other locations closer to downtown are being considered, he said, and the final decision will hinge on the city's planning and zoning approval process.

Wayside subleased space for 12 years from the overnight shelter PADS of Elgin in a building on Berkley Street on the west side. Wayside purchased the building last year but moved out after Christmas due to a disagreement over the sublease.

The new Fremont Street location is open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with some programs running until 4 p.m., Wood said.

Just like the previous location, it offers free daily lunch, laundry, showers and clothes. There's also Bible study for women and movies twice a week.

About 10 clients showed up for lunch Monday, which Wood called "a good start." The goal is to serve the 50 to 60 people who attend the free breakfast offered daily by Vineyard Church of Elgin in downtown, he said. At the previous location, Wayside primarily served PADS clients, he said.

Client Hector Salazar gave the new building a thumbs-up Monday. "It's better and closer, and it's very clean."

Client Renee Johnson agreed. "If I'm in need, they are here for me."

Staff member Lori Lindquist said she's especially glad the new building has a full kitchen. The previous site had only a convection oven so food could be reheated but not prepared fresh. "I love this building. There's so much potential."

Lindquist said staff members are telling clients to be on their "best behavior" because the new location is in a residential area. "We tell them, 'No loitering outside. Once you leave, you leave.'"

Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez said the city has been in communication with Wayside about its partnership with Bethesda Church. The services offered at the new location are considered an "accessory use" - it doesn't need specific permits - as long as they occupy less than 10 percent of the building space, Valdez said.

The new building is about 8,000 square feet, and Wayside uses only a portion of the lower level, Wayside Cross Ministries Executive Director James Lukose said.

Meanwhile, Wayside's former Berkley Street space is now used for daytime services for the homeless offered by PADS of Elgin from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. PADS also continues to run its overnight shelter.

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  Clients Joel Vargas, left, and Hector Salazar, right, were among the first 10 clients who checked out the new location of Wayside Cross Ministries on Monday. Bev Horne/
  Gene Heckenberg, Elgin client coordinator with Wayside Cross Ministries, fixes an oven Monday. The shelter, which closed at its longtime location on the west side, reopened on Fremont Street and now includes a full kitchen. Bev Horne/
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