Lake PADS needs replacement shelter as cold blows in
Despite public pleas and media attention, PADS Lake County still hasn't found a replacement site for a homeless shelter that dropped out of the program.
And with demand expected to rise next month as the temperature drops, PADS Executive Director Joel Williams is worried the nonprofit may have to turn some homeless people away at the worst possible time.
"We are growing increasingly concerned as the days go by," Williams said.
PADS typically operates two shelters each night at different locations in the county, plus a daytime resource center in Waukegan. A third overnight shelter operates Tuesdays.
There are 14 sites this winter, at churches in Deerfield, Grayslake, Indian Creek, Lake Villa, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, Mundelein, Wauconda, Waukegan and Zion. A list of PADS locations and a schedule can be found at: padslakecounty.org/how-you-help/volunteer/times.
Last year there were 15 sites. But St. Anastasia Church in Waukegan -- a longtime shelter on Friday nights -- left the program because of a construction project there.
When demand exceeds available space, PADS relies on the Foss Park District's community center in North Chicago as an overflow site. But because St. Anastasia Church dropped out, the community center has been used regularly on Friday nights -- leaving PADS no overflow option for that night.
The Daily Herald, ABC 7 Chicago and other media have reported on PADS Lake County's situation. But Williams still hasn't found a suitable site.
"We have had a few inquiries from people regarding logistics and such," Williams said. "But we have not been able to get to a level of detailed discussion with a potential location."
Even though it's been unseasonably warm, PADS has provided shelter for more people each night this month than during December 2014.
"In December 2014, with a much harsher winter, we averaged 76 people per night. This December, we are averaging 88 per night," Williams said.
Maximum capacity generally is 90 people per night. Once it gets colder in January, Williams expects the nightly average of people seeking shelter to exceed 100.
"Without a (new) site for Fridays, over a dozen people may be without shelter, sleeping out in the cold," Williams said. "The thought of this potentially happening is frankly terrifying."
Williams said it's been years since PADS has turned anyone away on a winter night.
"We have always been able to find a way," he said. "We hope that we can get some help to continue finding a way."
The shelters don't need to be churches. Any building with a large, open area could work.
"Some places use a gym, others a dining hall, while others still use their sanctuary," Williams said. "Showers are not necessary but are nice to have."
Anyone interested in hosting a shelter site can send an email to email@example.com or call (847) 689-4357, ext. 122.
To volunteer in a PADS shelter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (847) 689-43457, ext. 127.