By Dawn Thrasher
Community Resource Coordinator
As one of our PADS site managers recently said, "We are a community of people even though we do not see each other often, or ever."
Think about that – 4,000- plus individuals all pulling together to support one mission; to provide shelter, meals and supportive services to persons facing homelessness.
South Suburban PADS is the largest provider of shelter and supportive services for persons that are experiencing homelessness in the south and southwest suburbs of Chicago. PADS partners with local Faith Communities for the use of their building one night a week. Volunteers from these Faith Communities and the public at large provide the operational support that keeps these shelters open for the approximately 175 men, women and children served by PADS every night of the week.
The number of guests depending on the PADS shelter network this winter is the largest number ever in PADS 22 year history.
"This is the first year that PADS has had to turn guests away because we do not have enough capacity," commented Dawn Thrasher, community resource coordinator for PADS. "This breaks our hearts! We've also had several pregnant women this season, and many children."
PADS opened a 77-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Country Club Hills several months ago. Having 77 units of additional affordable housing in the Chicago Southland couldn't have come at a better time. Many PADS guests have been housed in this building in the last few months, leaving the shelter environment behind.
Even though PADS is blessed with thousands of volunteers, there are never enough to fill all the needs. Shelter volunteers are asked to work one four-five hour shift a month, and office volunteers are asked to work one 3 to 4- hour shift a week. Plus there are many other types of volunteer opportunities.
This winter season, PADS is operating 32 shelters each week, but 32 is not enough. We need more Faith Communities willing to open their doors one night each week to host a PADS shelter.