About UsDedicated to housing the homeless in NW Dupage County.
Shelter for All is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that is dedicated to housing the homeless in NW DuPage County in suburban Chicago.
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.
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. 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 most 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 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, linens and have fast WiFi. 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 to 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. Except for one Director of Client Development everyone involved in Shelter for All is currently a volunteer. 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 17. After we reach 17 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 $1,500/resident 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.
Disaster and Recovery
On Saturday, April 27th, 2019 Shelter for All suffered a potential program ending catastrophic disaster. The roof of the 200 High Street Apartment building was being replaced and the old roof was partially removed, the gutters were off, and the roof was improperly tarped when West Chicago received 6 inches of very wet snow followed by torrential rains. The snow and the water had no where to go so it poured through the building severely damaging all 17 units. David Dornblaser was in London that Saturday and returned home the next day, in the mean time two of Mr. Dornblaser’s employees moved all of the tenants into hotel rooms. That Monday mitigation work on the building began many of the ceilings, walls, etc. had to be removed. Water had invaded the electrical system and it had to replaced. With the walls opened it was determined that the plumbing was shot (not disaster event related) and had to be completely replaced.
Reconstruction of the 200 High Street Apartment took 18 months during which time Shelter for All scrambled to find housing for the existing 13 residents and stopped housing new residents. The number of residents that Shelter for All housed dropped from 13 to 5 during that period. One resident who had addiction issues overdosed on heroin while in a hotel. Shelter for All paid for her to go to a detox facility but sadly she was not ready for recovery. Not all of the departures were sad, some were ready to move-on and be self-sufficient including one young man who was homeless during his senior year of High School and has now graduated from Boot Camp and is in the regular US Army. We have now moved all of the remaining Shelter for All residents back into our apartment building.
And, of course, the pandemic hit during this period as well. When the pandemic hit, Shelter for All adopted protocols to keep the residents safe. We test, use masks, and avoid gatherings. Our social events are now online except for one recent event: Shelter for All had a baby boy born into our program and he turned 1 y.o.a. In October, we had a drive or walk by birthday party for him. Our weekly mentor meetings are now via Zoom as are our initial intake interviews for new residents. We have configured the office so that we can have safe, in- person interviews for the final intake interview.
Shelter for All survived this very challenging period and we are excited to move forward with our transformative program to house the homeless. We have recently started interviewing potential residents and are readying apartments for them. As we house more of the homeless we will be affording them emotional and mental health professional services, job support, life skills training, and weekly mentoring, services that sets Shelter for All apart. Most importantly Shelter for All is permanent, not transitional, housing. We rely on your generous donations to continue and grow Shelter for All; please consider donating now.
Shelter for All
131 Main St., West Chicago, IL 60185
Hours by Appointment