Improbably, shelter for homeless to open
SouthtownStar editorial August 28, 2012 7:46PM
Updated: September 30, 2012 6:21AM
For those with nowhere to go, no place to sleep and little chance those equations will change soon, the new Wellness Center of Country Club Hills offers them a chance at normalcy as they try to rediscover a direction for their lives.
It’s a homeless shelter but much more. The five-story, 77-unit apartment building, scheduled to open in a month, will offer health care, career training and, most important, dignity for the individuals and families who stay there. A good place to live, if only for a while.
The public often misunderstands homeless shelters, most of which provide a place to sleep for the night and then send their guests packing in the morning. Homelessness is a nomadic and desperate life. The Wellness Center is designed to break that cycle. But mostly it’s a major gift to Southland citizens who sure could use a break.
How difficult was this achievement? Mike Wasserberg heads South Suburban PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), which has operated a network of nightly shelters at churches, and has spent 30 years trying to find the money and commitment to establish a permanent shelter. He never gave up, though at times it seemed it would never happen.
Wasserberg’s quest reflects two civic realities. If not for federal grants, the $19 million project would never have been realized. There would never be enough donations to make it happen. And if not for Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch, the shelter organizers still would be searching for a community to call home.
When the federal government fails, it’s often on a grand scale. But when Uncle Sam succeeds in meeting basic human necessities, the success can be profound. There are challenges that local governments can’t or won’t meet. Many municipal officials in the Southland would not consider a permanent shelter for the homeless.
We’ve often questioned Welch’s conduct as mayor and criticized his political gamesmanship, but this is a moment when he deserves congratulations for real leadership. This shelter will offer hope.