By Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
PADS of Kendall County, IL
“Eight days a week is not enough….” So goes the refrain of the classic Beatles song. Well, eight days a week of work would not be nearly enough for a minimum wage worker to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Kendall County, west suburban Chicago.
“Basically, it’s almost impossible,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, a nonprofit organization that helps bridge the huge gap between homelessness and affordable housing in the area.
She was lamenting the results of a recent study entitled “Out of Reach 2016,” which found that a worker earning the Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 per hour would have to labor for 102 hours per week in order to pay the average $1,093 monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in bucolic Kendall County.
“It’s an unacceptable situation,” said Bob Palmer, policy director of Housing Action Illinois, which conducted the study, along with the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Housing should be affordable enough that a family can pay rent and still put food on the table. Instead, minimum wage workers in our state face unaffordable rates, whether they live in Chicago, Bloomington, or Cairo.”
Kendall County has the highest housing wage among all 102 counties in Illinois, the study showed. Renters in Kendall, which comprise 17 percent of the county’s residents, must earn $21.02 per hour to afford a two-bedroom home. However, the average Kendall County renter makes only $10.02 per hour.
Ms. Engelhardt is hopeful that developers will eventually build more affordable housing in the sprawling county. But in the meantime, PADS will soon be starting its seventh year of providing temporary homeless shelters at seven area churches.
From mid-October until mid-April 2017, food and shelter will be available on the following days at these sites: Sundays at Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville; Mondays, Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville; Tuesdays, Harvest New Beginnings, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego; Wednesdays, United Methodist Church of Plano, 219 North Hale Street, Plano; Thursdays, Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville; Fridays, Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego; and Saturdays, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Boulder Hill.
Those who wish to volunteer or donate may do so online at http://www.kendallcountypads.org or by calling (331) 207-8903.
Overnight guests at PADS receive a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a packaged lunch to go. They also receive help with employment, social services, and housing referrals.
“Sometimes, our guests will ask another guest if they would be interested in sharing an apartment so they can both afford the rent,” said Ms. Engelhardt, who has headed PADS since the organization began serving Kendall County in 2010. She added that many of the more than 350 guests whom PADS has served have since found permanent housing.
One of those is Darrell McGhee, 36, who was a shelter guest at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville throughout the 2014–2015 PADS season. Now that he has a job and permanent place to live, Darrell is a PADS volunteer at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Boulder Hill.
“Those people really helped me out a lot,” Mr. McGhee said. “So I wanted to give back.”