Interfaith Action of Evanston is still on the front lines of service to the homeless and hungry, working in partnership with the city, faith communities, and other organizations to ensure the health and safety of those who don’t have homes or are food-insecure.
There have been major successes on that front, reports IAE Executive Director Sue Murphy, but there also continue to be challenges, particularly around food supplies.
On the housing front, the city of Evanston has been able to secure hotel rooms for many of those lacking housing, and Connections for the Homeless has opened another space in addition to the hotels, increasing the number of beds available every night.
“This has been such a blessing for our clients,” Murphy says, recalling the emotional reaction of two women upon getting a room. One was moved to tears after spending her nights on the train and another said she felt she Like a princess in her hotel room.”
IAE is working in partnership with Connections, helping identify those still in need of housing, says Murphy, who is a member of the Mayor’s Corona Virus Task Force and also liaises regularly with the Evanston Interfaith Clergy and Leaders on needed actions.
“Our Hospitality Center is still open from 7 am to 11 am at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and they have given us an extra room so we can make sure we can keep people apart,” Murphy says. “We have been getting about 20 people per day. Our guests have been great and the volunteers are wonderful.”
Some of the folks coming to the hospitality center are newly experiencing homelessness or don’t have a current tie to Connections. Working with them at the Hospitality Center enables Murphy to establish or re-establish those ties so that Connections’ staff can pursue housing options during the current pandemic.
“We will be open as long as there are people who need a place to go and we are working with Connections to make it more efficient,” Murphy says. She continues to offer support as well to IAE’s long-standing clients and to support the Connections’ staff where she can.
Perhaps the biggest ongoing challenge is food insecurity, which IAE addresses through its multiple soup kitchens. Those efforts are being challenged, since the churches that host them are largely closed and can’t allow folks to gather in their spaces. As a result, many soup kitchen groups are ordering meals from local restaurants that can be handed out at the door to those in need, Murphy says.
One positive note on the soup kitchen front: The current crisis has brought all the Evanston soup kitchens together to coordinate efforts, including sharing information about restaurants offering the best deals on prepared meals, Murphy notes.
“This is something I’ve wanted to happen for a while,” she comments.
IAE has also contributed some of its Emergency Overnight Shelter gear – such as cots and bedding– to the new shelter sites being operated by Connections.
Interfaith Action of Evanston continues to need volunteers for its Hospitality Center, especially since many of the regular volunteers are retired individuals who are at greater risk in a time of pandemic and can no longer participate. Contact us via email if interested. Help is also needed for the Producemobile on the morning of April 14. Email ia@interfaithactionofevanston if interested. The organization also seeks ongoing financial support and has an Amazon Wish List on its website, www.interfaithactionofevanston.org.