By Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
PADS of Kendall County, IL
Darrell McGhee knows what it’s like to be homeless, and now he wants to help those who are in the same situation that he once was.
Darrell, 35, will never forget how he felt on that cold December night last year when he walked into a homeless shelter site at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville, west suburban Chicago.
“That’s when everything hit home,” he said. “That’s when I found out everything was realistic.”
Darrell had been living with his girlfriend in Aurora, hanging out in bars, and not trying too hard to find work. He says he had “burned bridges” with his family, so when his girlfriend broke up with him, he had no place to live.
That’s when his grandmother told him about Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County. A quick call to the local police station led to a referral to the nearest PADS shelter site. So Darrell spent that first night, a Sunday, at Cross Lutheran.
Unlike most PADS guests, Darrell was fortunate enough to own a car. Therefore, he could drive himself to the six other area churches that host PADS shelter sites in Kendall County throughout the week from mid-October to mid-April.
As the PADS season was ending last spring, Darrell realized that he needed to get serious about finding a job, lest he wind up homeless again. So that’s he when he contacted Manpower, which landed him a job with a local farm equipment company.
Shortly thereafter, Darrell was able to save enough money to rent a room from an Aurora homeowner for $500 per month. He was recently laid off from his job but Manpower found him a new one, as a forklift operator. “They’ve been really kind,” he said of the employment agency.
In addition to becoming gainfully employed, Darrell has made other changes in his life. He attends The Edge Church in Aurora as well as meetings of Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program. “I’m hanging out with better groups of people.”
He realizes, however, that not everyone becomes homeless on account of making “bad decisions” like he did. “Some people are just a paycheck away from losing their homes.”
Darrell is looking forward to the upcoming PADS season, but for a different reason than the one he had last fall. He plans to be a volunteer, helping others who are in the same predicament that he was in.
He says PADS “needs people like me who have been homeless, who know what it’s like to have no place to go.” Since he works during the week, Darrell will most likely be volunteering on Saturday nights at the PADS shelter at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Montgomery.
Besides Cross Lutheran and St. Luke’s, the other participating PADS churches this year will again be Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ; Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego; United Methodist Church of Plano; Trinity United Methodist Church, Yorkville; and Church of the Good Shepherd, Oswego.
Since 2010, Kendall County PADS has assisted more than 300 men, women, and children. That translates into 5,794 overnight stays and 17,369 meals.
Information about becoming a volunteer at a PADS shelter site may be obtained online at www.kendallcountypads.org.