Lazarus House, an emergency shelter in St. Charles, Illinois, first opened its doors in 1997. In the 24 years since then, its mission has always been to support individuals and families experiencing homelessness or those at risk of becoming homeless.
The organization has consistently expanded both their programming and the area they serve in response to community needs. “We added a Transitional Living Program, a Women and Children’s Day Center, and Homeless Prevention Programs,” shares Julie Purcell, Lazarus House’s Executive Director. “In addition, [Our] Food Only program provides up to 3 meals per day for struggling households and we have a de facto 24/7 crisis hotline for those needing help connecting to services.”
Like many shelters, early on in the pandemic, Lazarus had to work hard to be able to safely provide services for those in need. The first challenge they had to overcome? Retro-fitting their rooms to comply with social distancing mandates. “Initially, our Emergency Shelter guests were moved to hotel rooms to ensure their health and safety,” Purcell explains. “[While] most felt much more comfortable with this option, for others, isolation was an additional challenge to what they were already experiencing.”
While guests were in these temporary accommodations, shelter staff worked hard to transform their congregate living center. “The beds were moved 6 feet apart, air purifiers and Plexiglas shields were purchased, sanitizer stations were created, a new area was renovated to create more sleeping areas, PPE was procured, and the whole building was cleaned and put on a sanitizing schedule.” Not only did Lazarus implement these changes on the quickest possible timeline, they did so without pausing any of their other services. “[We] continued to provide daily meals, the means to do laundry, and case management.”
Meal provided by Lazarus House’s Food Only program
Lazarus House’s sleeping porch
Outside of Lazarus House, based in St. Charles, IL
The team at Lazarus House is also looking forward to providing different kinds of quality housing relief in the future. “We are excited to be in the investigative stages of creating some shared housing options for those we serve,” says Purcell. “This could provide affordable, independent housing for some of our guests that are ready to make the next step, but cannot find an apartment or room to rent within their budget.”