Traveling emergency shelters hit roadblock in Macomb

Demolition began in 2011, after residents at Shade Tree Village were forced out of their homes.

Help could be on the way to people living in poverty in McDonough County.

An organization called Genesis Garden is working to bring emergency shelters to the area for hundreds of people who are homeless.

"When we got the notice that we had to leave, it was like a family splitting up. All of us had to find a place to live," Lloyd Ham said.

Ham lived in the Shade Tree Village Mobile Home Park for four years before it suddenly closed in 2010. The shut down included demolition of the homes and displaced 35 families on the east side of town, adding to a growing situation in the county.

"People went homeless. People who owned their own trailers couldn't move because they'd built on and then they lost their property out from underneath them, so it was a crisis," Will Wetzel said.

Wetzel worked with the First Presbyterian Church to find most of those families homes. He soon created Genesis Garden to make sure a case like Shade Tree never happens again. Genesis Garden's goal is to help eliminate the nearly 23 percent of people living in poverty in McDonough County. The number grows to 34 percent within Macomb city limits.

"We get people in here all the time that say, I have no where to go. How can you help us?" Wetzel said.

It's a question asked mostly by single mothers with their children.

"Those are the people that we have run into the most that have either had utilities shut off, had a partner leave or a parent say, that's enough, you can't live here anymore," Wetzel said.

Wetzel is in the process of developing a mobile emergency shelter throughout Macomb, called McDonough County PADS, or Public Action to Deliver Shelter.

With help from a handful of volunteers, these shelters will move to different churches each night. This would be a closer option than the current three.

"Starting point in Monmouth, Galesburg Rescue Mission and Quincy," Wetzel said.

For people like Ham, a shelter like this would be essential in getting back on his feet.

"We need it badly, very badly," Ham said.

But the doors haven't opened yet.

City officials say each church involved with the shelter would need to apply for rezoning permits. That takes time and money.

The community has donated about $2,500 to the cause which could keep the shelters running through next April once they open.