Elgin emergency shelter looking for volunteers ahead of single-digits temps

  • Lucy and Pedro Gomez operate House of Restoration, which runs the emergency winter shelter in the basement of First United Methodist Church in Elgin.

      Lucy and Pedro Gomez operate House of Restoration, which runs the emergency winter shelter in the basement of First United Methodist Church in Elgin. Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/8/2019 12:17 PM

Nadia Miranda said she volunteers with her three teenage children at an emergency winter shelter in downtown Elgin because she wants to teach them about the realities of life.

"I really think it's important for them to see how blessed we are and how hard life can be," she said. "You always think you have it bad, but somebody else always has it worse. So be grateful for the little things."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Miranda said she hopes others will follow suit and volunteer at the shelter, which is open when it's 15 degrees or below in the basement of First United Methodist Church, 216 E. Highland Ave.

"The most important thing is serving them food and making them feel welcome," she said.

The shelter is run by House of Restoration Community Outreach, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit operated by Lucy Gomez and husband Pedro Gomez, who recently became a chaplain for the Elgin Police Department.

The shelter opened twice last month, with 48 clients the first night and 68 clients the second night. Single-digit temperatures are expected overnight Tuesday.

Volunteers are especially needed for the third shift from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., the Gomezes said. The first shift is 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the second shift is 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

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"We want to spread the word for people to help," Lucy Gomez said.

The shelter is "low threshold," meaning it's open to anyone, including those under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The Gomezes said there have never been any problems, other than having to shush people who stay up late talking while others are sleeping.

Clients are screened with a hand-held metal detector and their bags are checked for drugs, alcohol and weapons. If volunteers find any forbidden items, clients are asked to leave and come back without the items.

The only weapon found so far was a pellet gun, which Elgin police came to collect, Lucy Gomez said. Officers also stop by the shelter several times per night.

House of Restoration took over the emergency shelter operations last year. The shelter does comprehensive intake interviews to assess clients' needs. Men and women sleep in opposite areas of the large basement, on 35 cots or on the floor if needed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Most of the cots were donated by Encova Insurance; West Pier Laundry in Elgin donates washing of sheets and blankets, Ray's Restaurant in Elgin donates soup, Lucy Gomez said. First United Methodist Church donated color-coded bags to hold bedding.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg, visited the shelter this fall and donated some of the cots. "That was a blessing," she said.

Anyone interested in volunteering should call House of Restoration at (224) 856-1214. The shelter also hopes for donations of hand warmers and feet warmers.

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