Editorial: Agency's creative proposal to buy hotel to help the homeless deserves consideration

Homelessness in the suburbs is a complex problem that demands creative solutions.

One group in DuPage County has an innovative idea that is worth serious study.

DuPagePads wants to buy a Red Roof Inn in Downers Grove and transform the building into an interim housing center for people experiencing homelessness. If the center becomes a reality, it will provide 130 rooms for temporary housing.

"We really feel like this is going to be transformational for our county, for the people in our care," April Redzic, president and CEO of DuPagePads, recently told Daily Herald reporter Katlyn Smith.

The Wheaton-based nonprofit organization has long provided food and emergency shelter to individuals and families who are homeless. It suffered what seemed to be a devastating blow when it had to close all of its overnight shelter sites in March 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

But DuPagePads adapted to the situation.

It started renting rooms at hotels for elderly clients with chronic health conditions, families and then individuals.

The group has since been able to temporarily house more than 430 people in hotels. Those individuals, including 130 children, were provided a safe haven from the pandemic.

Officials with DuPagePads also discovered an added benefit.

"We began noticing transformations and just really good outcomes for our clients since we've been in hotel-based interim housing," Redzic said.

DuPagePads offers a range of services, from employment support to life skills coaching - all designed to help people become self-sufficient. However, it's hard to get back on your feet when you spend your days traveling from one overnight shelter to another.

Clients with hotel rooms were able to take advantage of the extra help. DuPagePads reported a 500% increase in the use of case support services.

DuPagePads officials say they would prioritize rooms at the center for families with children, people with significant health or mobility issues and those fleeing domestic violence.

But first, DuPagePads estimates it will cost $7.5 million to purchase and convert the building. The nonprofit has asked the DuPage County Board to allocate federal money for the project, including $2 million of American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

We have encouraged local officials to spend money from the COVID-19 relief package in ways that would have a lasting impact on our suburbs. Helping DuPagePads achieve its goal of opening an interim housing center fits that bill and deserves serious consideration.

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