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Daily Journal
     October 28, 2020      #57-302 KDJ

Fortitude down, not out: Homeless shelter program

By Lee Provost

KANKAKEE — About two months ago, Fortitude Community Outreach was seemingly on a path to operate a seven-night-a-week homeless shelter at St. Paul’s Lutheran School along South Dearborn Avenue in downtown Kankakee.

Fast-forward nearly two months later. Fortitude will be opening its rotating shelter program beginning Nov. 3 and will be using three sites to operate an overnight shelter four nights a week: St. Paul’s, Tuesday and Friday; River Valley Christian Fellowship Church, in Bradley, on Thursday; and Immanuel Baptist Church, in west Kankakee, on Saturday.

The schedule means there will be three days when the shelter is not open: Monday, Wednesday and Sunday. The shelters host 18-20 homeless people from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. The homeless are fed a dinner as well as a breakfast, but must vacate the area once the location closes in the morning.

“It’s just really hard to accept we have the ability to shelter the homeless, but people will still be sleeping on the streets,” said Dawn Broers, executive director of the street outreach program since January 2017. The PADS overnight shelter program began two years later in January 2019.

Broers said additional sites are being pursued. She is hopeful within the next few weeks additional locations may join the shelter program.

Broers said a fourth location — Resurrection Community Church of the Nazarene, 425 E. Court St., Kankakee — had been ready to join the non-profit program’s mission but because two shelters cannot be located within 1,000 feet of one another, the location was rejected by the City of Kankakee.

As a result of this move, Broers plans to seek a zoning variance from the Kankakee Planning Board. The next scheduled planning board meeting is Nov. 17.

“We are still looking at additional sites. We have had some other churches step forward, if not for a shelter, then at least for meals,” she said.

She also noted the City Life Center, 1820 E. Court St., Kankakee, had been allowing the shelter to operate there for one night a week, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the management there said it would not be a good idea to have the shelter and then open the location for youths later in the day. Broers said she agreed with that decision.

But as for now, she is soldiering on. She is seeking locations for those in need.

“It doesn’t get any easier, I’ll tell you that,” she said. “It’s disheartening to have to constantly fight to help the homeless.”

It was on Sept. 21 when the Kankakee City Council, by a 12-2 vote, rejected the conditional use permit which would have allowed Fortitude to operate the shelter full-time at the former St. Paul’s school in downtown Kankakee. Council members expressed support for the program, but said the downtown area was not the place for the shelter.

Shelter schedule

Monday: No shelter available

Tuesday: St. Paul's Lutheran School, Kankakee,

Wednesday: No shelter available

Thursday: River Valley Christian Fellowship Church, Bradley 

Friday: St. Paul's Lutheran School, Kankakee

Saturday: Immanuel Baptist Church, Kankakee

Sunday: No shelter available

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