Every Thursday evening from October through April Pilgrim Faith Church provides overnight shelter for homeless persons in our area. Guests are provided with a mattress, clean linens and towels, a warm supper, breakfast and a sack lunch to take with them. Case workers help guests access additional services and help so they can get back on their feet.
Our shelter is part of an extensive network of shelters and other programs run by BEDS Plus. The goal is to provide shelter during the cold months and help people from homelessness to self-sufficiency. For more information about shelters and services provided by BEDS Plus call their office at 708-354-0858.
It takes an army of volunteers, and some money, to make this happen, and we are fortunate to be able to find good people who will give up part of their night’s sleep so that others can sleep safely. Each shift is 4-5 hours, as explained below. We’re always looking for more volunteers, so if you have time please contact the church office.
The site works through the establishment of short, four to five hour shifts that are run by a team of volunteers. Most volunteers serve one shift a month. Volunteers must be 18 or over; younger people must be accompanied by an adult.
The formal shifts are:
First Shift: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Second Shift: 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Third Shift: 3 a.m.to 7 a.m.
Fourth Shift: 5:30 to 7:30 a.m.
PROPOSED OAK LAWN ORDINANCE TO RESTRICT OPERATION OF HOMELESS SHELTERS – UPDATE ON 11/7/17
The Village of Oak Lawn has proposed an ordinance restricting the operations of temporary shelters. (see below) If passed, this ordinance may have a significant impact on the churches and ultimately the clients we all serve. At a minimum, it will impose administrative burdens on sites in Oak Lawn and dramatically reduce our ability to obtain alternate sites if needed.
As you may know, BEDS has a long history of working productively with municipalities. We have already brought significant resource to the greater Oak Lawn community and swiftly addressed concerns brought to our attention. This local shelter system was created in the late 90s in response to a request by the municipal leaders for help with the homeless and has operated successfully for many years with the guidance of the local faith leaders. This sudden change of course is unwarranted and has the potential to create distraction and disruption for so many, including our vulnerable shelter guests. We are advocating for a less restrictive solution that honors the history of good work done by the shelters in the community.
What can you do NOW?
The Oak Lawn Planning and Development Commission voted on November 6 to approve the revised ordinance to regulate homeless shelters. Many local pastors, residents and shelter volunteers attended that meeting and asked repeatedly that it be tabled so that the village, pastors and shelter leaders could work collaboratively on some of the items in the ordinance that are still a problem for the shelters. The commission was not willing to make that recommendation.
We believe the ordinance will be considered by the Oak Lawn Village Board on November 14 at 7:30 pm at Oak Lawn village hall. We ask you to do two things to seek additional changes in that ordinance.
1) URGENT – We need Oak Lawn residents to contact your trustee and the mayor to ask for the following five changes to the ordinance:
- Change the date to apply for a shelter license to October 1 so that renewal does not fall in the middle of a cold shelter season
- Remove the requirement that the shelters give preference to homeless persons from Oak Lawn. This is impractical and does not respect the way that all of our BEDS shelters operate as one system
- Remove the requirement that the shelters report to the Village the names of all persons who stay in the shelter and the dates of their stay. This is a violation of the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights, the Illinois Board of Education McKinney Veto policy and HIPPA. It also puts at risk the many victims of domestic violence who stay in our shelters.
- Provide more flexibility in the hours of operation so that churches can admit guests early on nights when they also have evening religious services. This is not to allow guests to attend services though they are welcome to do that. This is a safety concern so that we do not have homeless guests lined up in our parking lots while church members are pulling into the lot to park for a service.
- Remove the restriction on locating a shelter within 500 feet of a school or child care center. Since many of our churches include schools this is very restrictive. We think the church can and will determine whether the shelter location poses a risk for the children. Many of our current shelters are within 500 feet of schools and/or preschools.
Even if you contacted your trustee and mayor previously, we need you to contact them again to ask for these specific changes.
2) We need all of you who care about our ability to provide shelter for those who are homeless to attend the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on November 14 at 7:30 pm to show your support. In order to speak you must sign a list before the meeting starts. You can speak for no more than three minutes.
Oak Lawn Trustees
Dist. #1 – Tim Desmond firstname.lastname@example.org
Dist. #2 – Alex Olejniczak email@example.com
Dist. #3 – Robert Streit firstname.lastname@example.org
Dist. #4 – Terry Vorderer email@example.com
Dist. #5 – William “Bud” Stalker firstname.lastname@example.org
Dist. #6 – Thomas Phelan email@example.com
Village President – Dr. Sandra Bury firstname.lastname@example.org