PADS sees increase in families being served
By Dan Moran email@example.com | @NewsSunDanMoran January 2, 2014 5:04PM
PADS guests gather for dinner in the basement of Wesley Free Methodist Church, Waukegan. The church is Lake County's longest-serving PADS site.| Judy Masterson/Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 4, 2014 6:10AM
With December 2013 delivering seven below-zero nights and the average temperature for the month running more than 12 degrees less than December 2012, it’s no surprise that more people have been making use of the services provided by Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Lake County.
In fact, on both Christmas and Christmas Eve, the non-profit agency saw spikes in the numbers of people visiting their emergency overnight shelters. According to PADS executive director Joel Williams, the shelters — typically operated out of two locations each night — usually see around 90 to 100 individuals, but the total topped 140 on both Dec. 24 and 25.
“We certainly are trending higher,” Williams said on Tuesday, Dec. 31. “We have seen some new people that have come through (and) we’ve seen an increase in just about all of our key demographic categories.
“We’ve seen an increase in families, we’ve seen an increase in younger individuals — that 18-to-24 demographic — and that’s a population we normally would not see in the past.”
Asked why more teens and young adults are visiting PADS overnight shelters, Williams said any one cause is hard to pin down.
“It was the population that in the past would always find a place — a friend’s couch, whatever it may be, but that (number) has ticked up lately,” he said. “We have not been able to ascertain exactly why. We’re trying to, as we provide services to them, gather some information and figure that out. But with what we know right now, we can’t really tell what the cause of that is.”
PADS officials have reported previously that they’ve recorded a 20 percent increase in the number of families being served over the past year, while another specific demographic, veterans, has witnessed a 54 percent spike in services. Williams said the “general economic malaise” can be blamed in most cases.
“There are fewer good jobs and there are fewer jobs, period, and that’s hitting all segments of the population,” Williams said. “It’s also much harder for someone to take in a family of four or five people.”
In the 2012 fiscal year, PADS served 1,808 homeless individuals, the highest number in its 25-year history. The greatest concentration was seen in North Chicago, Waukegan and Zion, though the agency operates 14 rotating emergency shelters from Oct. 1 through April 30 in locations that include not only those cities but also Deerfield, Grayslake, Libertyville, Lindenhurst and Mundelein.
On New Year’s night, for example, the agency opened shelters from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. at its usual Wednesday-night sites: Shiloh Baptist Church at 800 S. Genesee St. in Waukegan and St. Mary’s/Fremont Center, 22333 W. Erhart Road in Mundelein.
According to Williams, PADS employees have stepped up awareness campaigns as the weather turned toward the worse this winter, including information about free bus transportation to nightly sites from the agency’s North Chicago headquarters at 3001 Green Bay Road.
“What we really try to do is do some outreach with people,” he said. “We try to publicize our transportation as much as we can, and we try to partner with organizations that might get that first call for help from people — the health department, the townships and organizations where people might also seek assistance.
“And then we will have people that go out on the street and find people who maybe have not sought shelter in the past and provide them with information and resources so they can give the services they need.”
For more information on available services, including the agency’s full-time Family Center, visit padslakcounty.or or call (847) 689-4357.