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Services available to protect homeless from freezing temperatures

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 11:00 p.m. CST

MORRIS – Most Grundy County residents will turn up the heat and bundle up in blankets to stay warm, but the area’s homeless population is not so fortunate and particularly vulnerable during extreme weather.

“They’re human beings. A lot of these people don’t choose to be homeless, they’ve just fallen on some hard times,” said Cathy Milne, local homeless advocate and owner of the Coal City Clothes Closet.

While Morris has no homeless shelter, Grundy Area Public Action to Deliver Sustenance (P.A.D.S.) is a sheltering program that offers free shelter at Morris churches from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day of the week. Today’s shelter site will be at the First United Methodist Church at 118 W. Jackson St. in Morris.

“We’ve had about six or seven people per night, which is pretty typical,” said Denise Gaska, executive director of We Care of Grundy County, which helps manage the P.A.D.S. sites.

Gaska said anyone who needs a place to stay is welcome at a P.A.D.S. site as long as they are not intoxicated. Before being accepted to a site, everyone is given a breathalyzer to make sure they have not consumed too much alcohol.

“We’re not condemning drinking, but we need to make sure the person is in a state to be managed,” Gaska said. “We don’t want anyone causing problems for others who are there.”

In Morris on Monday, a warming center was opened at the Grundy County Administration building at 6 a.m. for those needing a place to stay during the day, but was closed at noon when nobody came to the building.

“There’s no place for the homeless to go during the day. The shelter closes at seven in the morning so they’re on their own until seven at night,” Milne said. “A gift card to McDonald’s or some place can be useful because they can go get lunch and stay warm inside.”

Milne said the Clothes Closet will take donations of hand warmers, blankets and gift cards to give to those in need.

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