• Joel Williams

Keeping Our Doors Open

As we experience another bizarrely cold April day, my heart is warm at the continued outpouring of support from so many of you. I have to begin by expressing my gratitude. To those of you who have supported us in any way, publicly or privately – thank you. To those of you who have chosen to contact City Officials – thank you. To those of you who came to the City Council meeting on that Monday as a show of support, or who plan on going to future meetings – thank you. To those of you who have made a donation in response to this – thank you. To those of you who have reached out to me personally or another PADS employee – thank you. To those of you who have expressed your feelings on Facebook – thank you. To those of you who have kept us in thoughts or prayers – thank you. For anyone who has not been up to date on things through Facebook or other media, here is what happened. On Monday, April 4, without any warning, the Waukegan City Collector came to our facility at about 11:30am with uniformed police officers to provide us with a notice that our business license had been suspended. The suspension was for “conducting such licensed activity in such a manner as to constitute a breach of the peace, or a menace to health, safety, or welfare of the public or a disturbance of the peace and comfort of the residents of the city or upon recommendation of any official charged with approving health requirements on the licensed premises.” We still do not know what the exact reason for the suspension is. Regardless, the suspension resulted in all of our clients being escorted out of the building in 35 degree, snowy weather. We were given no time to arrange transportation to an alternative location, such as a warming center. Everyone had to vacate immediately. This included an elderly woman with dementia. It included a young mother with a newborn child in an infant carrier. It included a man with a severe physical disability that makes it very difficult to walk. It included so many elements of our society who are the most vulnerable, just tossed in to the street. It was heartbreaking and enraging at the same time. We were able to get a “stay” of the suspension and reopen the next day. We are currently appealing the suspension through the appropriate legal and administrative channels. There is still a long way to go. Obviously our first step is to ensure we can continue to operate and get the business license suspension permanently lifted. But we are also hoping to use this opportunity to provide some information, education, and corrections about the people we serve. So many negative stereotypes about our clients have been circulating. Prejudicial and hurtful assumptions about the kind of people they are. On Tuesday, when we reopened our doors, “these people” (as they have so pejoratively been referred to) approached us, the staff, to make sure we were doing ok. They asked us how we were holding up; if there was anything that they could do to help. They had just been tossed out into the cold, and they were worried about us. They know that many people are against them – they have been facing that for a long time. They see as well as we do the stigma against those experiencing homelessness. What I have been fortunate enough to see, though, has been the outpouring of support for them. It has been clear on Facebook and other places. It is very evident. But the people we are actually serving don’t always see that. So I have a favor to ask. We have a blank wall in our resource center that needs some sprucing up. We’d like to plaster that wall with letters, cards, and notes of support from you, directed right at our clients. We’d like to make sure that they see all of your compassion and support for them. In this time, now more than ever, some kind words would go a very long way. I ask that you please consider sending this to us at: PADS Lake County, 1800 Grand Avenue, Waukegan, IL 60085. We’ll post them all up to hopefully lift the spirits of the people we serve. I know many of you have been asking what you can do to help, and this would be a good start and very much appreciated. There may be more in the future that I might ask for – there are still a lot of unknowns as to what is going on, but I know that when the time comes, you will be there to help. In a matter of seemingly prescient timing, my message in our most recent newsletter referenced the classic Dr. Seuss book The Lorax. Here is an excerpt:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. On the surface, this quote makes things seem completely and utterly hopeless. Whatever “it” is, the situation is just not going to improve.

UNLESS... ...we come together wanting to make a difference ...we realize that our compassion can be put into action...we - quite simply - care a whole awful lot.

This situation, which may seem completely and utterly hopeless, is going to get better. Because you all care a whole awful lot. I thank you again for all of your support. Joel Williams Executive Director PS - make sure to like us on Facebook for the latest updates.

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