PERU - Illinois Valley Public Action to Deliver Shelter (IV PADS) is actively preparing to re-open its shelters – the Peru PADS Shelter and the Ottawa PADS Shelter on Sept. 1. This will mark the organization’s 26th season of serving the homeless of the Illinois Valley.
Over the past 25 years the census has gradually increased, but in the past two seasons alone the number of nights a shelter bed was used increased dramatically by 63 percent and the number of children increased by 114 percent.
Jacqueline Smith, IV PADS Development & Outreach Assistant, said homelessness may not seem to be much of an issue locally. “Many people in our community may have no idea how prevalent homelessness is here because they don’t often see individuals panhandling, sleeping on park benches, or forming tent communities,” she explained.
The shelter season runs from Sept. 1–May 31. During the most recent nine-month period, IV PADS served 357 individuals, including 75 children, for a total of 11,391 nights.
People may wonder if the homeless clients served by IV PADS are local. “Sometimes the perception is that our clients aren’t from this area – that they are coming off the interstates or from Chicago, but that is rarely the case,” Smith noted. “The past season, 94 percent of those we served were from the Illinois Valley. The vast majority of people who come seeking shelter at IV PADS are our neighbors.”
Serving 357 people requires an enormous amount of volunteer and donor support. For instance, shelter volunteers provided and helped to serve 28,785 meals last season. Meals include a full breakfast and dinner and a hearty sack lunch.
Although a safe, warm shelter and nutritious meals are critical, the scope of IV PADS reaches much further than simply offering a bed and meals. Each client of IV PADS works directly with a case manager to identify specific needs and work out a specific plan to achieve self-sufficiency. IV PADS staff also teaches a variety of classes in the shelter including job seeking, computers 101, money management, reflections (a soft skills course), and individualized help with life skills and parenting.
Emotional and spiritual support is offered through support group and Bible study. Last season, these classes were attended 861 times. Carol Alcorn, IV PADS Executive Director, noted that the majority of clients they work with really desire to improve their circumstances. “They took ownership of making needed changes in their lives,” she said.
Often, the first step taken by staff is to assist with the practical needs of the homeless. This includes assistance in obtaining identification cards or medical cards; prescriptions, medical supplies or equipment; a cell phone; transportation to appointments; clothing; and personal hygiene products, to name a few.
Alcorn said she is proud of the results achieved last season by clients with the help of staff and volunteers. “Our clients had amazing success in obtaining employment with 93 new jobs recorded over the season,” she pointed out. “Our staff also helped clients to obtain 138 prescriptions, 56 government-issued phones, 76 state IDs, birth certificates or driver’s licenses, and 724 transports.”
Smith emphasized that they could never maintain such a level of help for the homeless without the support of the community. Alcorn agreed saying, “It takes a small army of volunteers and a community of generous donors to keep IV PADS running.”
IV PADS is in need of additional volunteers at all three of its locations, Peru PADS Shelter, Ottawa PADS Shelter, and Lily Pads Resale Boutique. At the Peru Shelter, the most urgent need is evening and overnight shifts on both weekdays and weekends in two-four hour shifts.
In Ottawa, the shelter needs evening and overnight volunteers in four-hour shifts mainly on the weekends along with a volunteer on Thursday and Saturday evenings who will drive to pick up and deliver a food donation.
Lily Pads Resale Boutique needs volunteers on both the sales floor and in the donation center on weekdays and weekends with the most need in the afternoons from 1-5 p.m. Training is provided for all volunteer positions. Anyone interested in volunteering can register online at www.ivpads.com.
Financially, the community can support IV PADS by shopping at or donating items to Lily Pads Resale Boutique, 4471 Progress Blvd. in Peru as well as with a monetary donation to IV PADS. Donations can be made securely online at www.ivpads.com, by mailing a check to P.O. Box 1012, LaSalle, IL 61301, or by dropping off a donation to any IV PADS location. Donations of supplies are also appreciated. A full needs list can be found online. The most frequently needed supplies are drink mixes, bottled water, sack lunch snacks, and paper products.
The public is invited to attend open house tours at both shelters. The Ottawa PADS Shelter, 1120 Canal St., Ottawa will host its open house on Wednesday, Aug. 30 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The Peru PADS Shelter, 1320 Menards Drive, Peru will have its open house on Saturday, Sept. 2 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.