Arlington Heights-based religious order funds hotel rooms for homeless amid pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyday lives, but that's especially true for the homeless in the Northwest suburbs, who are finding that with area churches closing, so are their PADS emergency shelters.
Officials with Journeys: The Road Home in Palatine, which coordinates PADS sites serving 37 communities in north and northwest Cook County, say the need for alternative housing is now urgent.
"We sleep approximately 100 clients a night through our PADS Shelter program," said Journeys Executive Director Beth Nabors. "We only have seven out of our 19 shelter sites still operating. The situation is dire."
In response to the crisis, at least one faith community has stepped up. The Arlington Heights-based Clerics of Saint Viator has donated $63,000 to house 60 homeless people in local hotels for three weeks.
"This is in line with our mission as a Catholic religious community," says the Rev. Daniel Hall, the provincial superior for the Viatorians. "This crisis could lead to between 60 to 80 men, women and children on the verge of living on the streets, and even more vulnerable to the coronavirus."
Hall hopes other local faith communities and individuals join in their mission of providing shelter for the homeless.
"It is my hope that you join us in this commitment to care for our most vulnerable sisters and brothers during this crisis," Hall wrote in a letter to supporters.
Nabors welcomed the donation, but stresses that the organization still needs more funds to pay for additional hotel stays.
In the meantime, volunteers continue to serve at the shelters that remain open, or at Journeys' HOPE Center in Palatine, where the organization provides counseling and other services to the homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless.
Others are helping with a newly created mobile food delivery program, providing for clients now staying in hotels.
"The majority of our staff continue to work and expose themselves to the virus until we can get all clients placed in hotels," Nabors said.
The emergency situation comes at a time when Journeys officials are in the midst of a capital campaign to build a three-story, fixed shelter site for their clients.
The new facility would offer year-round shelter, as well as permanent affordable housing, on separate floors. Residents would receive services such as primary health care, substance abuse treatment, vocational development and food assistance.
"Had we already completed our Building for Hope campaign we'd still be navigating uncharted territory with the rest of the world, but we would already be set up with transitional housing, a permanent PADS shelter, 24-hour security, and increased staff," said Journeys board member Melissa Swartz.
To make a donation to help house clients during the pandemic, or to provide other basic needs, visit www.journeystheroadhome.org.