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Volunteers responded to the shutdown with a mix of emotions...

Coronavirus forces Kendall County PADS to close shelters but not hearts to homeless

By Tom Siebert
YORKVILLE, Ill., March 23, 2020 — The rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic forced Kendall County PADS to abruptly cut short its tenth shelter season by about one month, but not until volunteers sought help for their homeless guests in securing alternative temporary housing.

Earlier this month, the PADS board of directors decided to defer to school closings and local health officials before deciding whether to close its seven shelters, located at six area churches and a Christian academy. The sites had been scheduled to remain operating until April 18.

“Although the board agreed to the guidelines for closing, we were able to stay open for three more nights so we would have a couple of days to make some quick decisions for some quick solutions,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of the homeless support group.

Three social work interns from Aurora University, which partners with PADS, visited the shelter sites on the last three overnights they were open, meeting with their homeless clients and committing to stay connected with them via phone calls and texts.

“They will continue this support for four more weeks,” said Ms. Engelhardt. “Most of our guests were able to find a place for shelter immediately or in the near future.”

PADS provided transportation to four of those guests who were placed at the Daybreak Center in Joliet, which offers emergency housing and supportive services to individuals and families in crisis.

Volunteers responded to the shutdown with a mix of emotions ranging from disappointment, to gratitude for the service opportunity, to concern for the homeless, coupled with a commitment to help out during the next shelter season, which runs from Oct. 18 through April 17, 2021.

“I am so sorry to hear about PADS closing even though I understand the rationale,” said Cathe Gusler, who served at the Parkview Christian Academy shelter on Wednesday evenings. “Thank you for giving me the honor to assist this program. Please keep me in mind for next year and let me know if there is anything I can do to help during the off season.”

Another volunteer, Jillian Liff, was both grateful and gratified after her first season of serving on Saturday nights at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Boulder Hill, unincorporated Kendall County near Montgomery.

“PADS brought me together with people from the community once a month to offer what we could––in my case a hot meal to people who are struggling,” Ms. Liff stated.  “Because each of us on the cooking team took one or two elements of the meal, we were able to provide some pretty tasty and nutritious home-cooked dinners. It felt good to be a part of PADS this season.”

Jullian Liff, one of volunteers, with Kendall County PADS to close.

Jillian Liff served as Kendall County PADS volunteer this past shelter season at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Boulder Hill.

Kendall County PADS has been providing nutritious meals, temporary housing, and compassionate care to the area’s homeless during the colder months of the calendar since 2010.

During this past shelter season, the support group hosted more than 50 guests, which translated into more than 1,300 overnight stays during 21 weeks.

​In addition to Parkview and St. Luke’s, the makeshift shelters were at Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville, Harvest New Beginnings church in Oswego, Trinity United Methodist Church in Yorkville, and Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego.

Kendall County PADS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses.

Those who wish to donate, volunteer, or learn more about helping the local homeless community may call (630) 334-8180 or visit

The potentially deadly coronavirus, designated as COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It is also transmitted when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

As of 7 a.m. on March 23, there were 358,082 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide with 15,433 resulting in death; 39,371 cases and 467 deaths in the United States; 1,049 cases and 9 deaths in Illinois; and four cases and no deaths in Kendall County.

Those recorded numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, which are expected to rise drastically, were obtained from the WHO, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois Dept. of Public Health, and Kendall County Health Dept., respectively.

Following the closing of the temporary shelters, Ms. Engelhardt sent a letter of appreciation to all PADS volunteers, which read in part:

“You have demonstrated over and over your dedication to helping the people who live in homelessness.  You faithfully pass on kindness through your warm hospitality. Thank you for your selfless gift to others in need these past five months.”

Tom Siebert is Assistant Director for Community Relations Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County.

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Tom Siebert
Journalis | Website

Tom Siebert has a BS in journalism from the University of Illinois and many years' experience as a writer/editor. As seen in: Chicago TribuneMediumThe Beacon NewsBarrington Courier-Review,PatchSouth Florida Sun SentinelSan Diego Citybeat

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