Wayside shelter plans to stay permanently on Elgin's east side

Elgin Wayside Center, a daytime shelter for the homeless, wants to stay permanently at its new location on the east side, and plans to add a resale shop and live-in "resident assistants."

Wayside Cross Ministries moved its shelter in January from Elgin's west side to a building at 453 Fremont St. The plan to remain there and expand received a unanimous OK from the city's planning and zoning commission last week, Elgin senior planner Damir Latinovic said.

The shelter has been using a portion of the 8,000-square-foot building. The new plan, which will need city council approval, would allow it to use the entire building, Latinovic said.

The new location is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday and has been serving 20 to 40 clients every day, with Saturday the busiest day, Elgin Wayside Center Director Phil Wood said. It offers lunch, showers, laundry, clothes, Bible study, counseling, life-skills training and outreach, such as Thursday visits from representatives from the Association for Individual Development.

The plan is to open a resale shop on the first floor, Wood said. Wayside has two resale shops in Aurora.

"We constantly get donations. We would consider the needs of the community and figure out what (resale) items are needed," Wood said. "It could be anything like children's clothing, bikes and other things."

One room in the basement will be turned into a dormitory for two to four resident assistants, who will help with opening and closing the building, checking guests in and out, assisting with food preparation and service, and help with cleaning and general upkeep. They will also provide 24-hour security for the center.

The resident assistants will be graduates of Wayside's seven-month, Bible-based residential program in Aurora, which is designed to help homeless people gradually transition to stability, Wood said. The men go through background checks; typically they don't have violent histories and there will be no registered sex offenders, Wood said.

The resident assistants would live at the Elgin shelter for about a year with the goal of securing employment and eventually housing, he said.

Three or four people who participate in the Aurora program are people who used to be homeless in Elgin, Wood said.

The Elgin building is owned by adjacent Bethesda Church of God in Christ, which reached out to Wayside last year.

"We really love the partnership with Bethesda Church," Wood said. "They have paved the way for many years for community involvement. It's a wonderful marriage for us."

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