Saturday, June 15, 2024

Ottawa homeless shelter, PADS, still needs help

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There are sections of floor that are sinking. One corridor is so uneven that a ball simply will roll away. A few walls are cracking. Staff has had to shuffle things accordingly.

The 165-year-old Ottawa building was never well-suited to be a homeless shelter and now the staff at Public Action to Deliver Shelter are literally watching it fall apart.

The poverty rate within families in our service area, particularly children, is alarmingly high and increasing

—  Carol Alcorn, executive director, Public Action to Deliver Shelter

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, was sympathetic and has championed a federal grant that would defray about a quarter of the cost of building a new PADS shelter.

If the grant clears a few more hurdles in Congress, that is.

PADS executive director Carol Alcorn is trying to clear up a misconception that PADS simply was handed $1.25 million. Not so. Even if Uncle Sam comes through with the Community Project Funding grant money won’t come until 2025 and is ticketed solely for new construction. Along with PADS, the Illinois Valley Food Pantry is slated for $750,000 to expand its refrigeration and storage capacity, the city of Oglesby $928,000 for its clean water project and $1,250,000 to expand the Mendota Health Center within La Salle County. These grants were awarded through Underwood’s Community Project Funding grants for Fiscal Year 2025. Congress can slate up to 15 projects within their district for funding.

“It would be a blessing to receive that grant and it would be gratefully put to good use,” Alcorn said, “but our need to obtain funding far exceeds the dollar amount that might be allocated to us which will still not reach our goal of $4 million.”

Meanwhile Alcorn must continue raising funds for operating costs such as food and utilities. PADS is ending its busiest season ever – clients rose by a full third since the season ending in spring 2023 – and costs rose accordingly.

“The poverty rate within families in our service area, particularly children, is alarmingly high and increasing,” Alcorn said. “As we continue to grow and meet the increasing demand for our services, we rely on the generosity of our supporters who are committed to taking this journey with us.

“It would be a blessing to receive that grant and it would be gratefully put to good use, but our need to obtain funding far exceeds the dollar amount that might be allocated to us which will still not reach our goal of $4 million.”

A sunken floor can be seen in the hallway outside the family room at the Public Action to Deliver Shelter on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Ottawa.

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