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Daily Journal
     September 21, 2021      #47-264 KDJ
 

Fortitude shelter gains council approval 

KANKAKEE — In a complete about-face from the Kankakee City Council’s vote from one year ago, Fortitude Community Outreach received a needed permit to operate its homeless shelter five nights a week in downtown Kankakee.

The council approved the request by an 11-1 vote. The vote allows Fortitude to operate the shelter in the former St. Paul’s Lutheran School building, 240 S. Dearborn Ave., within the city’s 2nd Ward.

Almost exactly one year ago, the council rejected the permit request by a 12-2 vote.

There was one major change in this request as compared to one year ago.

This permit has a one-year life, meaning after the upcoming shelter year is complete, Fortitude will not be allowed to operate the shelter at the site five nights a week.

The shelter, which can host about 20 homeless individuals, operates from Oct. 1 until May 1.

Executive director Dawn Broers explained the organization is seeking to establish its own location for the 2022 shelter year.

The goal, she said Monday, was that process would be set in place within the next year.

Because Fortitude has not yet purchased its location, Broers declined to state where they are looking, but did note both an existing building and a vacant lot are within Kankakee’s borders.

One year ago, Fortitude was seeking to make the St. Paul’s its homeless shelter seven nights a week without any type of end date established. This new proposal, however, is for only the one year.

The shelter will be in operation on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On Wednesday and Saturday, The Salvation Army will provide hotel/motel vouchers for the homeless.

It was 2nd Ward Alderman Mike O’Brien who led the charge to get Fortitude its one-year permit.

O’Brien, who voted against the conditional use permit last year, said it was the one-year window which the group was willing to live by that changed his mind.

“This will provide a bridge for them to serve the homeless community” at this location, he said. “But one year means one year. ... We don’t want one year to turn into three years.”

If Fortitude is unsuccessful at getting its new location up and running and it would need the St. Paul’s site, the shelter program would have to return to its practice of having the shelter move to various locations throughout the week.

Alderman David Baron, also of the 2nd Ward, had not been enthusiastic about the shelter remaining in downtown Kankakee. Baron has been at the front of development programs working to bring office and business space back to downtown Kankakee.

He said after the meeting he remains convinced the location is not a proper fit for a homeless facility, but he relented due to the one-year clause.

Incorporated in April 2018, Fortitude has been offering shelter since January 2019. It has been operating its Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) program out of a collection of church sites since that time.

The program currently does not offer shelter from May 1 through Sept. 30.

When Fortitude does open its own location, Broers said it would operate seven nights a week. The goal would be eventually to have the location operate in some manner during the day as well.

She has stated the shelter is never intended to be a permanent location for those who a homeless, but rather a temporary site for them until they regain more control over their lives.

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