The McHenry City Council has voted to allow Pioneer Center and The Chapel to move forward with plans for a full-time fixed-site homeless shelter.
The shelter would be at 1809 S. Route 31, near Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital and Pioneer Center’s main offices. The Chapel owns the building and will complete a build-out on a 6,000-square-foot portion of the building for Pioneer Center’s use.
The goal is to open the center within the next year, according to city documents.
The plan was met with some resistance from 2nd Ward Alderman Andrew Glab, who questioned what the benefit was to the city.
“I have heard from several people about the headaches and problems they have had in Woodstock,” Glab said. “If it’s a problem there, then why would it not be a problem here?”
Woodstock is home to a day service site, operated by Pioneer Center off Kishwaukee Valley Road, and the McHenry County Housing Authority-operated Old Firehouse Assistance Center, which is near the Square.
Some Woodstock residents have criticized OFAC over the past two years and say they want it shut down. Officials have said most of the problems residents have seen come from a handful of people who aren’t seeking help with their chronic homelessness.
Pioneer Center’s Kishwaukee Valley Road site can house 34 individuals nightly. In the winter, local churches traditionally have offered temporary night shelters that serve 40 to 60 people.
The McHenry location will replace those and will have room for between 60 and 70 people a night, Pioneer Center Co-CEO Sam Tenuto has said.
OFAC also will leave Woodstock and could work with Pioneer Center to continue to provide its services in McHenry at the Chapel location, officials have said.
Pioneer Center board member Richard Draper addressed Glab’s question during the meeting.
“This is an opportunity that serves so many people at a nominal cost,” Draper said. “I don’t understand why you are looking for some benefit to McHenry. I think that is absolutely obnoxious, sir.”
Seventh Ward Alderwoman Geri Condon said she supported the project.
“We need to wake up and open our eyes. There are homeless people in every community,” she said. “If we aren’t showing compassion to one another, then shame on all of us.”
Council members unanimously approved the proposal.