Thanks to the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, Housing Action Illinois subgranted $20,000 to MorningStar Mission Ministries. These funds support the agency’s work providing interim housing and emergency shelter, as well as providing increased access to emergency food and supplies.
Before the pandemic, on a typical day, MorningStar Mission housed 22 people in its emergency shelter. Now, due to COVID-19, Director Sandi Perzee estimates that number may triple to reach 75. Staff have moved extra beds into MorningStar’s chapel to increase the shelter’s capacity.
“As this crisis developed, more and more people were on unemployment because they couldn’t work,” Perzee said in an interview. “Our doors were imploding with need. It ended up we were the only shelter open in three counties. We just were inundated and, within a few days, totally overwhelmed.”
Thanks to the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, Housing Action Illinois is helping MorningStar cover the increased costs of providing emergency shelter with two $10,000 subgrants—one for May to June, and the second for July to August. MorningStar was able to serve 200 people with the funds during the first grant period.
While the pandemic is ongoing, MorningStar is working to comply with the CDC’s safety guidelines. Staff are disinfecting the facilities frequently, and new guests must now self-quarantine for two weeks. Staff and guests will wear masks until a vaccine is available or the coronavirus is no longer a threat. Donations of handmade masks have helped, but Perzee emphasizes that providing personal protective equipment is costly.
In addition to feeding guests, the organization continues to serve the public in their dining room. The Mission serves three meals a day, seven days a week. Diners enter in shifts of 40 at a time to allow them to maintain social distance from each other while eating. Keeping up with increased demand has been a challenge — food costs are ten times higher than they were a year ago, Perzee said.
MorningStar has struggled to keep up. The organization’s thrift stores were forced to close following the statewide shelter-in-place order, resulting in a loss of $250,000 in revenue over two months. Since the pandemic began, the organization has laid off 35 part-time employees, “which was heartbreaking to us,” Perzee said.
Still, MorningStar Mission remains committed to serving those facing homelessness, just as it has since its founding in 1909.