Traveling emergency shelters hit roadblock in Macomb

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

UPDATED: January 8 at 10:45 p.m.

The city of Macomb is one step closer to implementing homeless shelters.

The idea of 'floating shelters' moving from one location to another had been discussed for several months. Before that could happen, the Macomb City Council needed to update city code to define what constitutes a homeless shelter.

On Monday, the Council settled upon two different definitions of homeless shelters, intermittent and permanent.

An intermittent shelter is defined as operating no more than 3 days per week from 5 p.m. to noon.

Permanent shelters are now defined as operating more than 3 days per week at a minimum of 12 hours per day. Or, any shelter that operates more than 120 consecutive days will be defined as permanent.

Both types of shelters must provide a minimum of 50 square feet and sleeping accommodations for every person served. There must also be at least one staff member for every 7 people served.

The change in code allows for churches and other public facilities to apply for a special use permit that would allow the hosting of a shelter.


Original story posted on October 24, 2013

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.