Monday, January 15, 2018 || By Tom Holmes/Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews
Featured image: A resource card produced by Housing Forward that workers with the nonprofit often hand out to people experiencing homelessness. | Alexa Rogals
Last Thursday, Lynda Schueler, the executive director of the Maywood-based nonprofit Housing Forward, issued what amounted to an emergency all-points bulletin by email to significant stakeholders in Housing Forward’s PADS shelter program with an urgent appeal for reinforcements in the fight against homelessness.
She described the critical situation challenging Housing Forward’s resources this way:
“I’m reaching out to you all about the increasing numbers of people in need of our shelter services. Since the shelter season began in September, our turn-away numbers (defined as the total number of times we had to turn someone away at the shelter due to capacity) are more than double during the same time period a year ago.”
The PADS Shelter sites at local churches are regularly turning away 10 to 20 people on Sunday through Thursday nights, because the shelters are full to capacity. Fewer people are turned away on Friday and Saturday evenings, because greater capacity exists on those nights.
Compounding the problem is that the number of families served since September is up by 70 percent from last year, and single moms with children are staying twice as long than in years past.
Families are also guaranteed shelter, which then reduces the number of beds available for single adults.
“As you might imagine,” Schueler said, children in the shelter is not ideal for a host of reasons, but a reality that we are trying to manage with the resources we have.”
She added that there is no simple solution to the crisis, which is national in scope.
“Organizing more shelter sites and recruiting new crews of volunteers and meal groups doesn’t happen overnight,” Schueler said.
In her Jan. 11 email, she invited the nonprofit’s stakeholders to a meeting later this month at St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Oak Park, one of nine seasonal shelter sites that comprise the PADS shelter rotation, for an “open discussion about possible responses to what the PADS Shelter is currently experiencing.”
During a Jan. 9 edition of NPR’s Here and Now, Nan Roman, the president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, pointed out that “35 percent of people who are homeless are not sheltered.”
“We have about 550,000 homeless people [in the U.S.] but only about 275,000 emergency beds,” he said. “So this is something that causes issues when we have these kind of serious cold snaps.” VFP
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