A looming homeless crisis

A looming homeless crisis

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The “trickle-down theory” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re someone dealing with a community’s homeless population. “We are trying to be ahead of the need, as the layoffs will eventually begin to impact the folks who are forced to use our homeless shelters,” said Pam Schubach, CEO of YWCA Peoria. “As most of the homeless providers across the country are talking, we are only beginning to see the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

The “trickle-down theory” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re someone dealing with a community’s homeless population.

Want to help?

To donate to the YWCA’s efforts in serving the homeless, visit www.ywcapeoria.org, call 685-7655 or write to YWCA Peoria, 1013 W. Lake Ave., Peoria, IL 61614.

“We are trying to be ahead of the need, as the layoffs will eventually begin to impact the folks who are forced to use our homeless shelters,” said Pam Schubach, CEO of YWCA Peoria.

“As most of the homeless providers across the country are talking, we are only beginning to see the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

While most people don’t look at the YWCA as a provider for the homeless, the agency actually is the largest provider of homeless services in the Peoria area.

It currently has 249 beds available for the homeless, which typically are nearly all filled. Those beds include emergency shelter, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing.

“In 1983, we were asked by the city to open an emergency shelter – that was when the unofficial slogan was, ‘Last one to leave, turn out the lights,’ ” Schubach said. “And in 1992, we strategically started to expand to the homeless beyond the emergency shelter. In 1994, we received our first funding for homeless services.”

The numbers

– During last month’s “Street Sweep,” volunteers determined 427 men, women and children were living in transitional housing, shelters and on the street. The count is required as part of the funding agencies receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

– Currently in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and Fulton counties, there are 529 beds available in emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent housing.

– Of the total number of beds for the homeless, YWCA Peoria has 249, Center for Prevention of Abuse has 61, Salvation Army Peoria has 100, Salvation Army Pekin has 26, and South Side Office of Concern has 93. The YWCA Day Center also serves between 40 and 50 people during the day.

The YWCA currently oversees the Peoria Community Connections Day Center at 826 SW Adams; an overnight shelter, emergency shelter and transitional housing, all located at Dream Center Peoria, 714 Hamilton Blvd.; and Woodbine apartments and GlenPerry duplexes as part of its permanent housing solutions.

Phil Ryan, who has served as the shelter director for three years, said the people the agency deals with mostly are the last ones hired and the first ones fired.

“We’re seeing a real difficulty in getting people back out in the job market,” he said. “We haven’t seen anyone due to foreclosures, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t a year from now. Right now, a lot of people are being displaced because they can’t pay the CILCO bill – that, coupled with the problem of gaining employment.”

A report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness concluded that it still is unclear how the current economic downturn is going to affect homelessness, but all are in agreement that there will be an eventual strain on services.

The YWCA Board of Directors recently decided to extend its public campaign to raise at least $50,000 for homeless programming. And Schubach said discussions are taking place to expand the shelter to another floor at 714 Hamilton Blvd.

“We’re starting to see a repeat of 1983, and we’re at a maximum now,” she said. “We need help from the community.”

Lisa Coon can be reached at 686-3041 or lcoon@pjstar.com.

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