Since 2010, PADS had been providing nutritious meals and overnight housing at seven shelters...

Kendall County PADS keeps shelters closed but vows to continue helping unhoused community

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

For the second straight year, the Kendall County PADS board decided to keep its temporary homeless shelters closed during the upcoming colder months, citing health concerns over the worsening COVID-19 crisis.

But members of the homeless support group pledged to continue offering the alternative assistance that it has provided to the unhoused community, since the coronavirus forced the shutdown of the shelters in March 2020.

“The homeless have been cared for,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “Nobody has been left on the street.”

At a board meeting earlier this month, Ms. Engelhardt gave credit for the ongoing help to both the Kendall County Health Department and the c in Joliet, which has been accepting the local homeless into its shelter, operated by Catholic Charities.

RaeAnn Van Gundy, director of the Kendall County Health Department and a PADS board member, said her agency has been able to use COVID-19 federal relief funds to temporarily house area homeless citizens in local motels and assign them social workers from Community Action of Kendall and Grundy counties.

“If there was a silver lining to COVID, it was getting them all into one place to stay,” Ms. Van Gundy said. “Because of that we have been able to expand our program for client services.”

She added that some clients were able to receive housing vouchers to rent their own apartments while others were referred to Daybreak, which provides food, shelter, and social services including “intense case management” 24 hours per day.

Since 2010, PADS had been providing nutritious meals and overnight housing at seven shelters that were open one night of the week between mid-October and mid-April.

Those seeking shelter had to either drive their own vehicles or receive private transportation to travel to and from each site, often spending their in-between time at fast-food restaurants, the Oswego and Yorkville public libraries, and designated warming centers throughout the county such as the Montgomery Village Hall.

Sheriff Dwight Baird, also a PADS board member, said he and his deputies continue to offer any unhoused person transportation to Hesed House, a full-service homeless shelter in nearby Aurora. And Kendall Area Transit (KAT) has also provided rides when needed for those without vehicles.

Some PADS site managers at the meeting stated their willingness to reopen the temporary shelters, which were located at six area churches and a Christian academy.

But a majority of the board members agreed that the health of the shelter guests and volunteers could not be guaranteed, particularly with the so-called delta variant of the coronavirus causing COVID-19 cases to recently double in the county.

“The numbers don’t look good,” Ms. Van Gundy said. “And they aren’t expected to improve until we have better vaccination rates.”

Every year the homeless support group needed more than 500 volunteers, most of whom served once or twice per month, to staff the seven overnight temporary shelters, working four-hour shifts.

Some of those volunteers have been preparing and serving meals once per month at Daybreak for the past year, feeding those who would otherwise be PADS guests. There are plans to continue to serve a monthly meal at the Joliet shelter, said board member Kathy Farren.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering may email kendallcountypads@gmail.com.

Ms. Engelhardt expressed her gratitude to the thousands of area residents who have volunteered at PADS during its eleven shelter seasons and suggested the following service opportunities:

“We will continue to explore other ways to help the homeless in Kendall County,”  Engelhardt vowed.


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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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