The shutdown hits home and hits the homeless as PADS programs suffer

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Gardening blogger

As the government's shutdown continues into a third week, Lynda Schueler, West Suburban PADS executive director, has a message for the Feds: What goes on upstream is magnified downstream.

"I just don't think that the federal government recognizes what is really going on," says Schueler, who says 54 percent of her agency's $2.4 million annual budget depends on public funding. "They are talking about debt ceilings and trying to balance the budget, while nonprofits like us are having to front money we don't have."

Right now, she says, PADS is on the verge of expanding its offerings from 50 to 115 units of scattered site supportive housing, and is currently serving nearly 1,000 people via its programming. Those programs at now at risk.

The longer this shutdown lasts, she says, her nonprofit will continue to be affected by it in three significant ways.

Since Oct. 1, PADS has had a delay in the approval of a long-time transitional housing program called Project WISH. That has resulted in PADS having to cover $35,000 of expenses, out-of-pocket, on its continuing program because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been unable to sign the annual contract for its renewal, she says.

"So, we are essentially having to float money until the contract comes in, and the shutdown further delays us getting our contract, because we cannot draw on the fund from the HUD grant unless we have a contract in place," Schueler says.

Still, PADS is expected to continue the program without interruption.

"We are trying to meet performance measures, like getting people housed and off the street, and we are doing everything within due diligence that is required and expected of us. So, we are holding up our end of the contract, and the federal government isn't holding up their end of the contract," she says.

Meanwhile, their new federally-funded AmeriCorp Vista staffer, who has been in place for six weeks now as the Congregational Liaison, will not receive a paycheck if the government isn't back up and running by Oct. 25. If that happens, PADS, says Schueler, has been asked to tap into its reserve and temporarily foot her paycheck.

Additionally, PADS is currently recruiting to fill three of eight allotted AmeriCorps positions but has just learned that interested individuals cannot apply because the federal Corporation for National and Community Service has been shut down.

And, this month PADS was readying the launch of its new Open Door Housing program, thanks to a significant federal grant it received to fund the housing of 83 people in 65 scattered site units of housing rented from private landlords. Now, she says, the paperwork is in a proverbial bureaucratic log jam.

"All of our paperwork was done and sent to HUD in September, all those environmental reviews. I can't put anyone in housing until those environmental reviews are sent back to me by HUD and in our files," Schueler says. "I think the real impact and toll of this federal shutdown, is the four clients who are still homeless sleeping in the shelter.

Those four clients are still sleeping in the shelter because we didn't get signed paperwork from the Chicago HUD field office before the shutdown."

Baird & Warner backs PADS with $10,000 donation

While the federal shutdown is damaging efforts at West Suburban PADS, not all the news is bad. The non-profit just learned it will be the recipient of a $10,000 donation from the Baird & Warner Good Will Network.

PADS was one of five non-profits – out of 20 nominated – to receive a portion of the real estate firm's annual gift-giving. Also receiving funds were the Ronald McDonald House, A Safe Place, Connections for the Homeless, and Midwest Palliative and Hospice CareCenter.

The donation to PADS was supported by Baird & Warner's Oak Park office

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