For the past 20 years, the YWCA of Peoria has provided quality sheltering services to homeless women and families in the Peoria area. Traditionally, YWCA services to the homeless have provided two very important components. The YWCA Overnight Shelter allows any single woman or family a safe respite from the elements any time of night. Women and children without a place to sleep for one or more nights are provided accommodations until safe shelter is located in the community. The YWCA YHouse provides longer-term shelter for homeless women and families in private rooms. Homeless women and families are able to live at no cost for up to six months while receiving case management and working on the skills needed for successful independent living.
These YWCA services have been an important link in the chain of services provided to the homeless in this community. Several other local agencies also provide quality sheltering services to the homeless: Center for Prevention of Abuse, South Side Mission, Peoria Rescue Mission, and the Salvation Army. While it may seem we're all providing the same services to the same people, each of these organizations is important in the local Continuum of Care-a homeless service plan developed by the Peoria Area Homeless Consortium, the forum in which we all work together to develop the plan for local homeless services. Each of the shelter providers serves a niche of the homeless population and has tailored programs and services to meet the needs of the specific populations. For example, the South Side Mission doesn't accept male children over age 10 for sheltering. However, because the YWCA provides private rooms, families with children of all ages are welcome for services. The Salvation Army Safety Net provides drop-in overnight shelter services during the cold months for single men, while the YWCA Overnight Shelter serves women and families year round.
Recently, the YWCA of Peoria homeless programs have suffered a devastating loss of funds. It's been stated in the public that several of the local agencies are able to handle the homeless population in the event the YWCA is forced to close its doors to the homeless. However, this truly isn't the case. All of the local shelter programs described above are operating at capacity, especially in the winter months. The families coming into the YWCA on a daily basis would be forced to live in unsafe conditions until space is made available at one of the shelters and even then may be ineligible to stay or forced to separate the family unit. If the YWCA shelter programs are forced to close, the gap in the Continuum of Care could be tragic for this community.
The Peoria Area Homeless Consortium has done an excellent job in the past 10 years in "hiding" the homeless from the general population. Peoria isn't a community like other bigger cities where you see many panhandlers, people living in an alcove on a downtown street, families living out of their cars, etc. Quietly, we've served the homeless, providing food, shelter, and an opportunity at a better way of life. The closure of the YWCA homeless services could very well change the face of Peoria. It's our responsibility as a community that cares for its women and children to keep the YWCA Overnight Shelter and YHouse open. IBI