When temperatures drop in Chicago, the homeless shelters and soup kitchens often see an increase in demand for warm beds and hot meals. With the Dow dropping too, these organizations are getting less money, since donors – including the government – have less to give.
These problems have affected all local nonprofit organizations and have contributed to the eviction of a 65-bed shelter for men in Edgewater, one of three shelters run by an organization called REST.
“These people have very little to give thanks for right now,” said Ellen Kilmurry, the development director for REST.
After losing their long-time home at the Epworth Methodist Church on Kenmore and Berwyn, the organization has searched desperately for a new home, but on Dec. 1 it will lose city funding because it does not have a new lease.
The shelter also serves about 250 meals per day with the help of volunteers, the one thing Kilmurry says the shelter rarely goes hungry for. About 92 different groups continue to volunteer, but donations are harder to come by as the economic downturn affects those who are better off.
“They’re afraid to give their own money, because they don’t know what’s going to happen to them,” Kilmurry said.
The Good News Community Kitchen in Rogers Park has also struggled to find donations. It serves about 125 meals per day and depends solely on individual donors and foundation grants.
Talking about how the economic downturn affects the people they serve, Executive Director Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks said, “Honey, that’s nothing new! This has been some people’s reality for some time.”
Pagán-Banks said that Good News has been receiving more calls from people looking for turkeys and food baskets to get them through the holidays. They saw an increase in demand earlier this year when fuel and food prices skyrocketed.
Regarding the closing of the REST shelter, Pagán-Banks said, “I’m sure it’s going to have a major effect on us.”
Kilmurry said that the REST shelter was already at full occupancy, so the colder temperatures just meant that they would have to turn away more people. A representative from Cornerstone Community Outreach in Uptown said that their 350 beds are all full, and the 35 beds at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter are full, too.
Pagán-Banks said that as the economic situation worsens, nonprofit organizations are often expected to fill the gap and try to meet a greater need. With fewer donations, it is hard to keep going, she said.