KANKAKEE — When it comes to Kankakee County homeless finding shelter for the night, their choice will be singular.
Fortitude Community Shelter, 240 S. Dearborn Ave., is now the only homeless shelter in the Kankakee-Bradley-Bourbonnais metro region as Gift of God Street Church leadership has announced it has closed its men’s shelter program.
Linda Kannapel, director of the program at 660 N. Fifth Ave., in Kankakee, said the shelter simply no longer has the needed volunteers to maintain its current operations following the July 2021 death of her husband, Pastor Ed Kannapel.
The shelter had been in operation since 2008.
Instead of operating the shelter, Kannapel and some volunteers will distribute meals out of the Gift of God van from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays to those in need.
As a result of this change in service, Kannapel is encouraging people in need of overnight shelter to go to the Fortitude shelter, which now operates out of the former St. Paul’s Lutheran school.
Fortitude operates a five-night-a-week shelter at the school from Oct. 1 through May 1. The Fortitude program recently gained approval to operate its homeless shelter program at the Dearborn Avenue location. It had previously operated on a rotating basis between multiple sites.
Up to 18 people can take shelter at the Dearborn Avenue site on the nights of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On Wednesday and Saturday, The Salvation Army provides hotel/motel vouchers for the homeless.
The shelter, which also provides a dinner and breakfast, is open from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“When Fortitude announced they were opening, we decided we couldn’t do this any longer. We are trying to keep Ed’s dream alive, but we just may continue in a different format,” Kannapel said.
Gift of God is also planning a winter wear available at the Fifth Avenue site to those in need, but final details have yet to be determined.
Kannapel said the shelter is not closing, but changes are being made. She said the program is in need of a cook, supervisor and a secretary. Those interested should call 815-573-5314.
Dawn Broers, Fortitude’s executive director, said the Fortitude shelter has been hosting 8 to 11 homeless individuals per night already this year. She said that is a high number because the weather has been mostly warm.
Broers is fearful that when frigid nights become the norm in the region, the shelter will not be able to accommodate all those seeking to get out of the cold.
“I don’t know what to attribute that to,” she said of the increased need. “Many of the people we have seen come here are new to us and they appear to be coming from everywhere. It’s really unique.”
She said as the pandemic’s eviction ban is lifted and these cases work through the courts, she expects even more people.
“We will have a busy season, I believe,” she said. “We will do whatever is in our power to serve.”