Housing Action Illinois subgranted $15,000 to Shelter Care Ministries—thanks to the Illinois COVID-19 Relief Fund—to support the agency’s work offering rental and utility assistance.

Shelter Care Ministries wants to provide families with “the most normal type of living situation, so that it doesn’t feel to the children like they’re homeless,” Executive Director Sarah Parker-Scanlon tells Channel 13 WREX. The Rockford-based agency helps house clients in private, furnished apartments and assigns each family a Housing Advocate who helps them meet goals they set for themselves.

WREX spotlighted Shelter Care after Housing Action Illinois announced that the agency would receive a $15,000 subgrant, thanks to the Illinois COVID-19 Relief Fund. Shelter Care Ministries will be able to use this funding to support 3 – 4 families that have been staying in local hotels and motels due to the pandemic. The families will be assisted in finding apartments, paying rent, and establishing utility payments. Agency staff will furnish the apartments with items from the local Habitat ReStore so that everyone has beds to sleep in and kitchen tables where they can eat. In July, at the end of the grant period, the families will be absorbed into Shelter Care Ministries’ Rapid Rehousing program and continue to receive rental assistance and supportive services for up to 24 months.

Photo courtesy of Shelter Care Ministries.
This long-term thinking is valuable in the midst of a pandemic, when immediate solutions sometimes win out over sustainable ones. Shelter Care hopes to place these families on a longer path to stability, which fits with their broader approach to housing. On any given night, Shelter Care houses 30 formerly homeless families in scattered site apartments. These families have been able to shelter in place at their homes. During the pandemic, Housing Advocates have been dropping off food and paperwork and checking in with clients to make sure they have what they need.

“We’re fortunate that we’re still able to operate our programs, albeit a bit differently,” Parker-Scanlon tells supporters in a recent Facebook video update. Although they have suspended their day care program for homeless children and closed their drop-in center for adults with chronic mental illness, staff have been handing out 100 sack lunches each day. The community has come together to support the agency. “We appreciate everyone’s support and generosity,” Parker-Scanlon says. That generosity has included donations of handmade masks and hand sanitizer, inflatable air mattresses, and “busy bags” with activities to help occupy children during the stay-at-home order.

In the face of the pandemic, staff remain committed to their mission to provide shelter, awaken hope and honor dignity in every person who seeks comfort, support or assistance through their programs. “We want to make sure we don’t stop taking new families,” Parker-Scanlon tells the Rockford Register Star.

Read more about Shelter Care Ministries: Shelter Care Ministries receives grant for homelessness (WREX, 5/5/20).