Roundtable aims to find solutions to the growing problem of homelessness – Shaw Local
Homelessness and hunger were widespread before the pandemic, but in the two years since COVID-19 upended lives around the world, those closest to those in need have seen dramatic changes.
A sharp increase in needs and a change in the age of people seeking help are just some of the changes local organizations plan to discuss at the panel on hunger and homelessness hosted by St. Andrew.
St. Andrews, 1125 Franklin St. in Downers Grove, will begin the event at 7 p.m. Monday. Free entry.
The event will feature a four-person panel with representatives from Shelter for All, Hope’s Front Door, 360 Youth Services and DuPage Pads. The discussion will be moderated by Lisa Snipes of the DuPage County Continuum of Care, and each panelist will provide information about the organization they represent and how community members can get involved to help.
“Homelessness and Hunger is a very transient network and there is no one size fits all in how to serve and help individuals, but no one is asking to be homeless or hungry,” said said Denise Cantrall, a St. Andrews member who has long been involved. in service work for the homeless and hungry. “I don’t know if there’s an answer, but we’re trying to do everything we can.”
Cantrall said St. Andrews has been extensively involved in helping the homeless population during COVID-19, and members of the congregation have noticed growing needs during this time. The idea of this event, she said, is to educate the public about the homeless and hungry local population and how the public can help.
Dave Dornblaser, founder and panelist representing Shelter for All, said he hopes to raise awareness of his organization at the event. Shelter for All aims to provide permanent residence for people struggling with homelessness, and the organization also provides a number of additional services to its residents to help them transition from homelessness to independence.
Shelter for All residents receive a fully furnished apartment, funds, necessary food and a mentor. They are taught skills such as budgeting and cleaning. Everyone in the house sees a psychologist to help overcome past trauma and the trauma of being homeless. The organization also offers social events to help build community among its residents and employees.
“We are a transformative place of support,” Dornblaser said. “I would really like to publicize our group; we could use support and awareness. Some people will never overcome this difficulty without this kind of support and help.
Dornblaser said he’s noticed an increase in the number of older faces among the homeless population.
Janelle Robinson, a panelist for Hope’s Front Door, said she has seen an increase in the number of women and children among her organization’s clientele. Hope’s Front Door is often an emergency stop for those in immediate need of financial or medical assistance, and Robinson said she hopes to discuss how the pandemic has increased needs locally.
Robinson said things such as an increase in the cost of goods have caused stress on previously stable households, leading many to seek help, particularly regarding food insecurity. A survey by Hope’s Front Door showed that many people went into debt to try to keep their families afloat during the shutdowns, Robinson said, and the effects of that debt are still being felt and carrying.
“It’s going to have long-term ramifications and has the potential to cause instability,” Robinson said. “We want to help people get back on their feet – to pay off their debts, get back to work, hopefully at the same or similar pace, and get back the savings that so many people have lost.”
Pads, one of the best-known community-serving organizations, has undergone a big shift during the pandemic, moving from an emergency mobile shelter program to a new model. Scott Austgen, who will be the DuPage Pads panelist at the event, said the model change was still part of the plan, but the pandemic has pushed things forward.
DuPage Pads has purchased the former Red Roof Inn at 1113 Butterfield Road in Downers Grove and will update and repurpose the building to provide accommodation for its guests. That way, Austgen said, people in need can have a private space with a shower and they won’t have to travel with the shelter.
“Usually we see 150 people on a winter night and 100 in the summer, but the last [week] we saw 300 people [in one night.] There is a dramatic increase in need and demand,” Austgen said. “I would like to share how we get support because our services rely heavily on community financial donations and volunteer efforts.”