Homeless people don’t have vacations

EDWARDSVILLE – Helping people cope with homelessness is an ongoing issue for Judy Grantham, but she realizes that the topic gets more community attention during the holidays.

“The homeless are still there, but people open their eyes a little more and see them a little more because it’s the holidays, and they’re more generous,” said Grantham, who is the fund development coordinator. for Collinsville Food. Pantry.

“It’s a bit seasonal too, because if you see a homeless person in the summer you might think they’ll be fine,” she said. “But if you see him sleeping on a park bench during the winter, it changes their perspective.


The Collinsville Food Pantry is one of many Madison County organizations and agencies that work with the homeless throughout the year. As part of its transitional program, customers can come every other day and get bags full of food and other essentials.

“The bags contain non-perishable, easy-to-open foods, including snacks like peanuts as well as dried fruit, in addition to a variety of dishes,” Grantham said. We also give them water and other drinks, including Gatorade or Ensure (a nutritional drink).

“We give them personal hygiene items as well as sleeping bags, blankets, gloves and hats,” she said. “Now that our thrift store is open again, if people are wearing summer clothes and it’s 30 degrees outside, we can give them pants and sweatshirts. If their shoes have holes in them, we get them a new one. pair of shoes.

When the weather gets particularly cold, the pantry also provides people with hand warmers.

“We also give them referrals and resources,” Grantham said. “If they are homeless, we give them the number of the homeless hotline. Of course, if they choose not to call the number, they don’t get those resources.

“If they choose to call, they will have a case worker assigned to them. If it is determined that they have mental health issues or alcohol and drug problems, social workers can suggest the right program to them, ”she said. “We are looking for shelters for them and we are working with the Salvation Army and the United Way. We try to help them as much as possible.

Last winter, the pantry operated a warming facility at Collinsville Senior Center at 420 E. Main St. It opened for 14 consecutive days during a long cold spell and was used by 93 people. .

“The center has changed hands since then and I’m still waiting to hear from them so I’m not sure if we’ll have it again this year,” Grantham said. “I hope to find out sooner rather than later because it’s even colder. Last year when people had to leave the center around 8 or 8:30 in the morning, we gave them bus tokens so that they could at least get on the bus and stay warm during the day.

Collinsville Food Pantry is also a member of several Madison County boards of directors working to end homelessness.

The Pantry is based at the First United Presbyterian Church at 201 E. Church St. It rents space from the church and is not affiliated with it, but the two work closely together.

“We have a common mission: to help people,” Grantham said.

Homeless veterans are a major concern for Bradley Lavite, superintendent of the Veterans Aid Commission in Edwardsville.

Like Grantham, Lavite noted that homelessness is a concern year round. The matter should receive more attention during the holidays.

“From my perspective, the homeless people in this area seem to be migrating to downtown St. Louis, so maybe we don’t have a homeless population like they did,” he said. declared Lavite. “Coordinated Entry Homeless Services is a single point of entry for all homeless people in Madison County.

“Everyone who passes gets a full benefit review to establish a baseline of where they’re at,” he said. “If he’s a veteran, he’s dispatched. to our office for review. It comes right back to me or my office manager, and we both do all of the financial aid audits. “

Lavite added that there is a federal grant program called Veteran Family Support Services (SSVF) which is administered by Chestnut Health Services.

“We are in our sixth or seventh year of this funding,” Lavite said. “We select people, and they select them, and then they come back together on a path.

“Whatever areas the SSVF is unable to help, we are filling the gaps. Once their funding runs out and veterans have moved into housing, they look to us for longer term case management.

On the Madison County VAC website – https://www.co.madison.il.us/departments/veterans_assistance_commission/index.php – there is a link for the Interim and / or Emergency Veterans’ Financial . Veterans or their families can complete an application for financial assistance. The same page contains information on the coordinated entry process.

“If people are homeless or at risk of losing their homes, it lets them know what to do,” Lavite said.

Chris Otto, deputy chief community development officer for Madison County, said during the holidays the county will continue to help those in need through various programs.

“The county runs a hotline, which connects homeless people with essential services,” said Otto. “The hotline number is (618) 296-5300. We have someone looking after this number during office hours, which are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. You can also leave a message and you will be called back the next business day.

“The aim is to put these people in contact with the emergency services,” he said.

Otto added that the county also has resources to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“These resources include emergency shelters, rapid relocation, transitional housing, assistance with utility payments and rent assistance,” said Otto. “In addition to these resources, the county also works with charities and local organizations to provide care to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. “

Madison County also participates in the One-Time Count (PIT), a tally of homeless and homeless people that HUD requires each “Continuum of Care” to complete on the last 10 days of January of each year. The HUD requires PIT counts every year, but only requires the unsheltered portion of the count every two years.

The 2022 count in Madison County – which includes Collinsville, Granite City and Alton – is scheduled for January 27. Edwardsville is not included in the count. Grantham said the most recent count, in 2019, listed a homeless population of 24 in Collinsville. The count did not take place last year due to COVID.

“I’ve seen random people here who are probably in this (homeless) situation, but at this point I don’t think it’s at the level (in Edwardsville) where it would be a productive use of our people. “, Otto mentioned. “Collinsville, Granite City and Alton are places where we tend to see larger congregations of people seeking help, especially in warming centers during the winter. “

For these communities, Otto said the PIT account is a valuable tool.

“It’s an elusive population, so anything you can do to quantify who is out there is helpful,” Otto said. “But the programs that we have here in community development for the county are designed to prevent people from finding themselves in this situation.”

The Edwardsville Public Library is doing its part to help the homeless in Madison County, partnering with the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Social Work Program to have a graduate student as a social work intern from January through August .

“The intern takes cases of people in need and directs them to services that can help them. FCB Bank is sponsoring this program and has been a great help, ”said Jacob Del Rio, Chief Adult Services Librarian at the Edwardsville Public Library.

The library also works in tandem with other local organizations to provide services to the homeless.

“The First Presbyterian Church gives us bus tokens that we can give to people who can get stuck between places, and the tokens can get them on MCT (Madison County Transit) and take them to where they need to go,” said Del Rio. “Chestnut Health Systems gave us $ 10 gift cards to Subway if anyone needs a meal while they’re here. We also keep warm clothes and hygiene products here and the St. Andrews Scarf Project (of St. Andrews Episcopal Church) gives us scarves, hats and gloves to help people in cold weather.

During the winter, the library also directs people to the Alton Night Warming Centers at Deliverance Temple Church, 1125 E. 6th St. in Alton. The center is open at night at 20 degrees or less. Doors open at 5 p.m. The group has a Facebook page and can be emailed to [email protected]

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