Shelter for All believes that having a permanent residence is the first step to address unemployment, mental and emotional health issues, addiction, and other critical needs.
Shelter for All started in November 2017 when our founder, David Dornblaser, purchased a 17-unit apartment building in West Chicago, IL. We housed our first resident at the end of November 2017. In downtown West Chicago there are grocery stores, a good public library, a Medicaid medical clinic, a good food pantry, public transportation, pharmacies, thrift shop, etc., within walking distance of our apartment buildings. During 2018 David Dornblaser purchased a building that Shelter for All uses for an office and also a residential house. Shelter for All also houses residents in two bedroom apartments owned by real estate agent Lance Kammes. As of March 2019 Shelter for All permanently houses 13 individuals across these buildings.
Shelter for All is a transformative housing solution. Our goal is to make our residents independent and self-sufficient. Each resident meets with two mentors weekly to plan and address issues and goals. As of March 2019 we have 9 mentors who are psychologists, college professors, retired special needs teachers, substance abuse counselors, psychoanalysts, etc. Our mentors meet monthly and work as a team to help our residents. Shelter for All is unique in that we focus on providing professional services to our residents. For example five of our residents meet with a psychologist in West Chicago weekly. We provide access to other mental health professionals including psychiatrists. Shelter for All also can pay medical bills that are not covered by our residents’ insurance.
Our residents have other needs as well. Shelter for All helps our residents find jobs. We require our residents to work at least 20 hours a week or to be on disability. Every resident must learn to budget and to save money. Our residents rely on food pantries and LINK cards for the bulk of their food purchases. Shelter for All provides support and social activities for our clients. We have Christmas and other parties, take everyone from the residents to volunteer movers to the mentors out to lunch when we move in a new resident. We have a weekly coffee half-hour followed by an hour of yoga. There is a weekly book club that is currently reading Albert Camus’ The Plague. There are spring outings planned that include a picnic and bicycle ride from West Chicago to Geneva and back. All of our residents have or will be given donated bicycles from a local bicycle shop. We have plans to have clergy meet weekly with any resident who wishes it.
Shelter for All residents are moved into fully furnished apartments that have everything that they need and nothing they don’t need. There are local thrift shops that our residents use to put their personal touch on their apartment. The thrift shops are also good sources of affordable clothing. Each resident is give $100.00 in cash, 10 ride train ticket, and a roll of quarters so that they can do laundry. The apartments are stocked with food, cleaning supplies and linens. The first few days after a resident is moved in they receive orientation to West Chicago and the services available to them. We take them the Secretary of State’s office so that they can update their state ID and to the West Chicago library to sign-up for a library card. New residents are introduced to their mentors the first week.
Shelter for All has little administrative costs. Everyone involved in Shelter for All is currently a volunteer; we will be adding a part-time administrative assistant in March. We currently are funded by donations and ongoing support from our founder. Shelter for All currently has access to all of the apartments that we need. We expect to continue to grow slowly until we reach our maximum capacity of 18 later in 2019. After we reach 18 residents our focus will continue to be on providing the services and support that our residents need and we will add new residents only when our current residents graduate from Shelter for All. To support this commitment and level of care Shelter for All needs $25,000.00 a month in donations.
By providing permanent shelter along with access to public transportation, our residents will have the ability to seek and hold jobs. By meeting weekly with volunteer mentors we will learn our tenants needs; we also will be to help with grooming and social skills and other skills that we take for granted. Our mentors take our residents out of their comfort zones so that they can move forward. Finally, having permanent housing will give our residents dignity. Shelter for All’s operating model is a transformative, life changing opportunity for the people we house.