Mt. Vernon leaders ban together to open homeless shelter

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

MOUNT VERNON, IL (KFVS) - Leaders from across the community in Mount Vernon, Illinois are united in one goal to build a 60 bed homeless shelter.  Supporters say it would not only transform an eye sore but also save tax payers in the long run.

At Crossroads Community Hospital, the reality of the area's homeless problem is seen on a regular basis, as people come to the emergency room for care.

"They would come into our triage area," said Debie Richardson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Crossroads Community Hospital. "A nurse would see them here and take their chief complaints and find out what brought them to the ER today."

Richardson says while the aliments may be different, the reasons for the visits are the same.

"We're not going to turn someone way," Richardson said. "They're going to come through our doors, more often than not, because they know we're here 24/7."

Richardson says when it comes to paying for the care usually the homeless can't pay, so in the long run, others help pick up the tab. But Richardson, like other business, church and educational leaders, see a vacant and run down nursing home as part of the solution.

"We're going to have three separate wings," said Robert Dyer, President of Lifeboat Alliance. "One wing will be for men, one for women and one for families.

Lifeboat Alliance is the group leading the charge, to build a large scale homeless shelter. The group is made up of members from the religious, educational and business communities.  Dyer says while Mount Vernon has some homeless shelters, they are short term and can't house large numbers.

"You do not want a community with people who have no means to better themselves, because when you can't better yourselves you turn to other things," Dyer said.

Dyer says the shelter will give people a warm place to stay but more importantly, it will also provide those staying in it with the resources and education to make long term life change.

"This can be a place where we all pull together and really become a better Mount Vernon," Dyer said.

The Mount Vernon City Council still needs to give the green light before Lifeboat Alliance can move forward with construction plans. That could come as early the March 21 council meeting. Dyer says if the zoning permits are approved at that time, they hope to have the shelter open by next winter.

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