As fall rolls in and winter looms just a few months away, hundreds of homeless Kendall County residents will be clamoring for a place to stay.
They’ll seek a reprieve from the cold, a warm meal to savor, and a place to lay their heads as frigid temperatures take over summer nights.
That’s where Anne Engelhardt comes in.
Engelhardt is the executive director for Kendall County Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS). Since its inception seven years ago, nearly 400 men, women and children throughout the county have utilized PADS services and accommodations.
There have been a total of 8,700 overnight stays that have occurred in the program’s seven revolving shelter locations, and 27,000 meals served to those who can’t afford them.
“Seven years ago I had a resident ask me if there are any homeless people around (the area),” Engelhardt said. “Most would say, ‘Nooooo. Not in Kendall County!’. People weren’t aware, including myself. But, the facts would show us otherwise.”
According to Engelhardt, more than 200 children in grades K-12 are homeless in Kendall County, with the largest number of children being from Oswego.
Most of those children never see a PADS shelter, as they set up residency in the homes of family members and friends. But, for those with no place else to turn, the PADS shelters provide comfort from the cold and compassion.
The shelters, which revolve nightly between several churches and a Christian academy in Yorkville, are open 26 weeks a year. Doors open Oct. 15 and will remain that way until April 14.
From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., homeless residents are welcome to hunker down at the PADS shelters and take advantage of some of the programs PADS has to offer, including counseling, job assistance and the hospitality of the volunteers.
“The guests we serve have lost almost everything,” Engelhardt said. “They’re really at the bottom of the pit when they come to PADS. Some come with their belongings in a shopping bag. Others are lucky enough to have a backpack…. We want to affirm them as valuable people and show respect for their dignity.”
Last year, PADS partnered with Aurora University and the Kendall County Health Department to form the Guest Assistance Program (GAP), which allows for a social worker to be on site seven days a week.
“They address their physical, mental, social and employment needs,” Engelhardt said. “And we connect them with services already available in the community.”
After enjoying a warm meal, showering, washing their clothing, and getting a good night’s sleep, guests are provided a hot breakfast and given a lunch and snacks to get them through the day.
The hard work is a result of some 600 volunteers needed each month to keep the PADS shelter doors open.
“This takes more than a single village. It takes more than several villages,” Engelhardt said. “It takes many people to make PADS work.”
Volunteers spend more than 28,000 hours in the shelters every winter to make sure they are staffed and running. They work six shifts throughout the winter at 4.5 hours each. While most volunteers come by way of local churches, Engelhardt encouraged everyone to do their part.
“Homelessness belongs to all of us,” she said.
Men and women, age 18 and older, may serve as volunteers. Different positions and tasks can be matched to the skills and desires of each volunteer and volunteers may choose their own locations. Most volunteers live in Kendall County, but that is not a requirement.
New volunteer training will take place Sept. 21, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Pkwy., Yorkville.
For more information about Kendall County PADS visit http://kendallcountypads.org/
Cross Lutheran Church
8609 Route 47, Yorkville
Yorkville Congregational UCC
409 Center Parkway, Yorkville
Harvest New Beginnings
5315 Douglas Road, Oswego
Parkview Christian Academy
202 E Countryside Parkway, Yorkville
Trinity Church United Methodist
2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville
Church of the Good Shepherd UMC
5 W. Washington St., Oswego
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
63 Fernwood Road, Montgomery
— Kendall PADS places dignity, value on homeless population —-