Homeless help: DuPage Pads helps provide food, shelter to those in need amid COVID-19 crisis

DUPAGE COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy, officials in one Chicago suburb are working even harder to keep some of the most vulnerable safe.

Institutions that typically house the homeless are finding themselves unable to do so because of the ongoing pandemic crisis, forcing organizations to find alternative resources.

Stepping up to the task are local hotels offering to help house the homeless and restaurants pitching-in to feed them as community services emphasize that the need is greater now more than ever.

"There's a lot of need," said April Redzic, CEO of DuPage Pads. "People living close to the edge are having a difficult time right now."

DuPage Pads is a client service center that aims to provide basic needs, as well as support for change in Wheaton.

With homeless numbers skyrocketing, so is the need for shelter. Because of COVID-19 the county is no longer able to use traditional locations, like churches, so they are putting individuals and families up in hotel rooms.

In the past, those churches would alternate throughout the month and we'd have a community setting where people were kept in a safe place until they could find perminate housing. In this case, COVID threw a left hook at us," said DuPage County Commissioner Pete Dicianni.

Although hotels are relatively affordable right now due to decreased demand during the pandemic, the county is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the program at a time when the budget is already extremely tight. It's also a tough time for restaurants and their employees. nevertheless, many DuPage County restaurants are pitching in as much as they can.

Francesca's donates hundreds of hot meals every week, including their signature pastas, to the homeless who are now staying in hotels.

"Because we are a food organization, what better way to help people than to feed them. And that, we're very good at," said Nancy Gerenstein with Francesca's.

Many of those needing food and shelter in hotel rooms are staying for up to several months, officials say.

"I know it's been a difficult time for so many people to help outright now but it's allowed us to keep our clients in a safe place," Redzic said.

Each of these bags prepared by volunteers at Pads represents a weeks with of non-perishables. The current supply on the shelves will only last about a week and a half, and officials say the need will be greater as the weather gets colder.
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