By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Now in operation for over a year, the New Life Family Shelter is averaging about 20 residents per month.
The homeless shelter is a facility operated by Lifeboat Alliance, and opened on Oct. 1, 2012.
Currently, there are 27 guests, including two children. During 2013, the shelter housed 240 people — 121 females and 119 males.
One would think with the recent cold weather and a major winter storm that came through Southern Illinois last weekend, the shelter would have had a spike in attendance. However, the number of residents has remained level throughout the year, according to Executive Director Jenny O’Daniel.
“It’s becoming more and more evident that people float,” O’Daniel said.
“Families run out of places to put them. People don’t consider themselves homeless as long as they have a friend or family member that allows them to stay with them.”
O’Daniel said it is very common to receive inquiries from families who have loved ones who live with them.
“And when they stay here, many of the kids say it’s the first time they’ve had a bed. That’s said,” O’Daniel added.
Surprisingly, the months of September and May were the high attendance months for the shelter. There were 35 new people entering the shelter in September, 34 in May.
“In September, people were scrambling to get their kids in school. We had a large number of families who checked in with us in September and stayed with us,” O’Daniel said, adding the spike in May may be attributed to the end of the school year.
“I’m thinking that with school getting out, possibly people were free to move a little bit,” O’Daniel said.
Of the current guests, seven males and four females have been employed at Continental Tire of the Americas, Walgreens, Innotech Manufacturing, Hucks, White Oaks Nursing Home and Select Remedy. There were also 27 guests at the shelter on Christmas day.
O’Daniel said the shelter provided 22,743 meals in 2013 and 15,356 volunteer hours were performed.
“We’ve had more food donations that we’re actually having to put some of them in a freezer,” said O’Daniel. “The food donations this past year has been tremendous. People have been so kind and generous, even more so this past year than in 2012. I think it’s probably helped that people know we’ve been open a full year.”
O’Daniel said fundraising never stops at Lifeboat Alliance, and planning sessions have already been conducted by Chairman Rae Cummins. If anyone would like to serve on any fundraising committees, they may call Cummins or O’Daniel at 244-4088 or (618) 308-2781.