Elgin church becomes daytime shelter for homeless

  • Pastor Abi Raices, right, has converted his New Life Covenant Church sanctuary to a homeless shelter during the day in Elgin. Movies are played throughout the day, and warm showers and clothing are available. So far about a dozen people have used the facility. Also in the photo are volunteer Jerry Rivera, from left, Associate Pastor Larry Sauter, and volunteer James Fortes.

      Pastor Abi Raices, right, has converted his New Life Covenant Church sanctuary to a homeless shelter during the day in Elgin. Movies are played throughout the day, and warm showers and clothing are available. So far about a dozen people have used the facility. Also in the photo are volunteer Jerry Rivera, from left, Associate Pastor Larry Sauter, and volunteer James Fortes. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Geraldine Milton and Doris Glenn, members of the New Life Covenant Church in Elgin, operate a "Jesus closet" at the church, which offers donated clothing to the homeless that stay there.

      Geraldine Milton and Doris Glenn, members of the New Life Covenant Church in Elgin, operate a "Jesus closet" at the church, which offers donated clothing to the homeless that stay there. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • A mobile shower trailer with warm water is available to the homeless people who use the daytime homeless shelter at New Life Covenant Church in Elgin.

      A mobile shower trailer with warm water is available to the homeless people who use the daytime homeless shelter at New Life Covenant Church in Elgin. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/31/2020 5:39 PM

New Life Covenant Church in Elgin has opened its sanctuary to homeless residents during the state's stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The church is open to the homeless from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with lunch at noon. It provides inspirational and PG-rated movies, plus a recorded service on Sundays. There is clothing for guests, a mobile shower trailer provided by an anonymous benefactor, and 65 cots provided by local businessman Tim Kellenberger, Pastor Abi Raices said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The church has a homeless ministry, and the new initiative is about helping stem the spread of the coronavirus, Raices said. The daytime shelter will operate for the duration of the order, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker has extended to April 30.

"We are just showing them love," Raices said. "We have people who are courageous and bold, practicing social distancing of course, and showing them they are not alone in this time."

The church partnered with the city, which is providing $7,000 through April 7 and more funding through April 30.

"Every individual in Elgin needs to be provided with basic necessities, especially when public facilities are closed and regular shelters have been forced to adjust their services and availability," Mayor David Kaptain said in a statement. "I am so grateful for New Life Covenant's ability and willingness to step in and take on this important role to provide services and refuge to our community during this trying time."

The church took over operations in January of an emergency winter shelter open when it's 15 degrees or colder inside First United Methodist Church in downtown Elgin.

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Just like they do for the emergency shelter, police officers stop by during daytime shelter hours to ensure everything is running smoothly, Raices said. The fire department assisted with disinfecting, he said.

"They have been really supportive with us," he said. "It's been a real good community effort."

Volunteer James Fortes said it's important to give the homeless a sense of dignity, which can be as simple as engaging in conversation. The volunteers practice social distancing, and there are hand sanitizer stations and gloves for food preparation, he said.

"Is there are risk? Absolutely. But at the same time, being a church and being a man of faith, I need to participate in what the world is doing and what is happening, and take precautions."

Anyone who wants to donate masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes or sprays, liquid soap and water can email Raices at elgin@mynewlife.org.

Homeless individuals who want to go to the church daytime shelter can be picked up at 9 a.m. and dropped off at 5 p.m. outside the Elgin Police Department at 151 Douglas Ave. If they need assistance, they can call the department's social services division 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday at (847) 289-2629 and (847) 289-2700 at other times.

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